New COVID-19 variant that is 70% more transmissible threatens UK. London suddenly put on lockdown and Christmas is canceled.
- London and some surrounding areas will enter into Tier 4 from Sunday morning.
- The tougher restrictions are in response to a fast-spreading variant of COVID-19.
- The new variant is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible.
- Christmas is canceled for those in Tier 4. Elsewhere in England, the proposed five-day relaxation of rules has been dropped.
- Wales will be bringing in similar restrictions from tonight.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London and parts of the South East and East of England will be entering into 'Tier 4' lockdown restrictions from Sunday morning.
The tougher restrictions, announced at short notice, are in response to the sudden emergence of a fast-spreading variant of COVID-19. The new variant of the virus is currently believed to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain.
It does not, however, appear to be more lethal or resistant to existing vaccines.
While much is unknown about the new variant, Johnson explained that action is immediately required. "We already know more than enough to be sure that we must act now," he said.
New restrictions in the most affected areas, those that are moving from Tier 3 to Tier 4, will be equivalent to those during November's national lockdown.
In London, parts of the South East and East of England, residents will be expected to stay at home apart from limited exemptions set out in the law.
Non-essential retail, indoor gyms, leisure facilities, and personal care services will close from midnight on Saturday.
Those in Tier 4 will be expected to work from home if they can, avoid staying elsewhere overnight, and to avoid leaving their local area.
Across all of England, people will be advised not to travel. "We're asking everyone in all tiers to stay local. People should carefully consider if they need to travel abroad," Johnson said.
Christmas will also be 'canceled' for those in Tier 4 areas.
The prime minister said: "It's my duty to take difficult decisions and to do what is right to protect the people of this country. Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of this virus and the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned."
In addition to the tougher rules for those in Tier 4, those in Tier 3 will also have to change their Christmas plans. The five proposed days of 'Christmas bubbles' will now be replaced with a three-household bubble on Christmas Day alone.
"Christmas this year will be different, very different, but we must be realistic. We're sacrificing the chance to see our loved ones so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so that we can see them at future Christmases," the prime minister said.
Following the announcement, Wales' government announced that it will bring in new restrictions similar to England's from tonight.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also expected to announce tougher restrictions later this evening.
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