A new variant of COVID-19 has been found in the United Kingdom and has forced the country back into lockdown, after cases of coronavirus soared.
Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus, which may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England.UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock
More than 1,000 new cases has been found linking to this new coronavirus variant which is found predominantly in England. He said similar variants had been identified in other countries in recent months, and that the UK had notified the World Health Organization about the new variant as expert analysis continues.
Residents are already unable to meet people from other households indoors, and will now not be able to meet in private gardens or at most outdoor venues. They may meet up to six people outside at parks, public gardens or sports facilities. Retailers will be able to stay open. People should avoid traveling outside their area and reduce the number of journeys they make wherever possible.
He said that in some areas, the doubling time is now around every seven days, and that rates were raising not just among schoolchildren, “but in all age groups including the over 60s.”
Hospitals in London, Essex and Kent are already under pressure and could quickly be “overwhelmed” without action, he added.
Hancock said taking early actions that are “not necessarily easy, but are effective” was vital to prevent longer lasting damage, adding that community testing would also be extended. “I know the steps are hard, but we must not waver as we enter the final stretch, so that when we look back on this time of crisis, we can all say that we played our part,” he added.
London joins regions including much of northern and central England, Kent in the southeast, and Bristol in the southwest in Tier 3.