London will be placed into UK’s toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions from midnight on Wednesday morning following a rapid rise in Covid-19 infection rates.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the move as he addressed lawmakers in the House of Commons. He said British authorities had identified a «new variant» of the virus that may be linked with the faster spread of cases in southeast England.
“Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants,” Hancock said, adding that, so far, 1,000 cases of the new variant had been identified in England.
The variant has been found in 60 areas by local authorities, and it is believed to be similar to that found in other countries in recent months.
This variant was reportedly first identified in Kent last week, with ministers reporting on it on Friday. Hancock explained to MPs that currently «there is nothing to suggest» that this variant causes more severe symptoms, adding that it is highly unlikely that it will not respond to existing vaccines.
Earlier this month, the government imposed a three-tiered system of public health measures across England to try to curb the spread of the outbreak following a month-long lockdown.
Millions of people across the country were placed into “Tier 3” at the time, but the UK’s capital city had been put into the second-highest tier of restrictions.
A nationwide review of the tiered-system had initially been scheduled for December 16.
Alongside London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are also set to move into “Tier 3” from 00:01 London time on Wednesday, meaning all pubs, cafes and restaurants will close except for takeout and delivery and people will not be able to mix indoors, in private gardens or most outdoor venues.