UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed stricter COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Christmas after being told it was a new strain of the virus circulating in the south east of England could be up to 70 percent more transmissible

With the average number of cases in England rising sharply due to a new, contagious strain of virus, Johnson said the government needed to take urgent action

“There’s no evidence that it leads to more severe illness or higher mortality rates, but it appears to be much easier to pass,” Johnson said at a press conference to announce stricter lockdowns on millions of people

“While there is considerable uncertainty, it can be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the old variant, the original version of the disease. These are early data that need review

“But it is the best we have right now and we have to respond to information as we have it because it is now spreading very quickly”

London and South East England – about a third of the English population – are currently at the highest level of a three-tier system of rules and are moving into a new tier 4

People are required to stay home except for essential reasons such as work, and non-essential retail stores are closed, as well as indoor recreational and indoor entertainment options

He had also resisted calls to change plans to relax restrictions for five days during the holiday season and allow three separate households to meet indoors

Those who are now in level 4, however, are not allowed to mix with others over Christmas and everyone else is only allowed to see friends and family for one more day

The measures will take effect from Saturday evening at midnight (local time) and on 30 December checked

“It is with a very heavy heart that I have to tell you that we cannot continue Christmas as planned,” said Mr Johnson

An increase in cases in the UK has been triggered by the new infectious strain of the virus – VUI202012 / 01

Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer of England, said that while there is no current evidence that this variant of the virus causes higher death rates or affects vaccines, urgent work is underway to confirm it

“We have alerted the World Health Organization and are continuing to analyze the available data to improve our understanding,” said Dr Whitty in a statement

The reproduction number “R” is estimated to be 1 and 12, which means that the number of cases increases rapidly

UK chief adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the more communicable variant of COVID-19 would likely be present in other countries as well

“We believe that it can also be in other countries,” he told reporters on Saturday (local time)

He said that in parts of England, including London, the southeast and east of England, the new variant is becoming the dominant form

“There is no evidence that it causes a more serious illness, causes more hospitalizations, causes more problems than the other virus, it basically looks the same”

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), took to Twitter to call for swift action

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World News – AU – The highly contagious new COVID-19 strain leaves no choice but to enforce stricter Christmas restrictions in the UK