UK goes into ‘Tier 4’ lockdown as new ‘variant’ of COVID-19 spreads

England's chief medical officer has informed the World Health Organization that the new coronavirus strain 'can spread more quickly'

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that London and Southeast U.K. have been hit with a “new variant” of coronavirus and that he will be instituting tougher restrictions to combat the outbreak.

Johnson’s announcement will have a significant effect on travel during the Christmas holiday, forcing millions to unexpectedly cancel their plans.

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During a news conference, Johnson said that he is putting the regions into a level of lockdown called “Tier 4,” starting Sunday, Dec. 20. Under the new restrictions, people can only meet with one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference in response to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street on December 19, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Toby Melville – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

In addition, several non-essential businesses are being closed for a two-week period, including bowling alleys, hair salons, cinemas and gyms.

The World Health Organization has been informed by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, about the variant strain of coronavirus, and that the “new strain can spread more quickly.”

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Shoppers wear face masks in the High Street on September 22, 2020 in West Bromwich, United Kingdom. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

“As announced on Monday, the U.K. has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance,” Professor Whitty said. At this point, over 66,000 people in England have died of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic hit the country.

As reported by The New York Post, this will be the third time that the city of London will go into coronavirus-related lockdown. In the past week alone, 60 percent of the new infections in the city have been due to the new variant strain.

Prime Minister Johnson says that the new strain “may be up to 70 percent more transmissible” than the earlier coronavirus. The new variant has infected over 1,000 people so far, Forbes reports. Since the pandemic hit the U.K., England accounts for over 58,000 of the U.K.’s total cases, as reported by the New York Times.

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