Passengers walk along the Thames Road in front of the Tower Bridge in London, United Kingdom, Monday, December 14, 2020.
Holly Adams | Bloomberg via Getty Images
LONDON – London will be placed in the toughest class of restrictions imposed on the Coronavirus in England from Wednesday, after the rapid rise in rates of Covid-19 infection.
Health Minister Matt Hancock confirmed the move on Monday while addressing lawmakers in the House of Commons. He said British authorities have identified a new type of virus that may be linked to a faster spread of cases in southeast England.
“Initial analysis indicates that this variable is growing faster than the current variants,” Hancock said, adding that so far, 1,000 cases of the new variant have been identified in England.
“There is currently no indication that this variant is likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that this mutation is unlikely to fail to respond to a vaccine.”
Hancock said that similar types of Corona virus have been identified in other countries in recent months, and the British health authorities have notified the World Health Organization. Hancock said public health experts will continue to analyze the new form of the virus in the UK.
Earlier this month, the government imposed a three-tier system of public health measures across England to try to curb the spread of the outbreak after a month-long lockdown.
Millions of people across the country were placed at ‘Level 3’ at the time, but the UK capital was placed at the second highest level of restrictions.
A national review of the tiered system was tentatively scheduled for December 16th.
Besides London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are also set to move into ‘Level 3’ starting at 00:01 London time on Wednesday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London to appear on Andrew Marr.
Aaron Chawen | PA Images via Getty Images
“I know this is difficult news, I know that it will mean plans are broken and that for the companies affected, it will be a big hit,” Hancock said.
“But this measure is absolutely necessary, not only to keep people safe, but because we have seen that early measures can help prevent more harmful problems that last longer at a later time,” he added.
Under Level 3 restrictions, people cannot mix indoors, private gardens, or most outdoor spaces. Shops, gyms, and personal care services such as hairdressers are permitted to remain open, but bars and restaurants must be closed except for takeaway and delivery.
Hancock said: “I know that these steps are difficult, but we must not hesitate as we enter the final stage even when we look back at this time of crisis, we can all say that we have played our role.”
Last week, the UK became the first country to vaccinate people with a full-tested coronavirus treatment.
Margaret Kennan, who was 90 years old at the time, made history as the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outside of trial conditions.
It will now be awarded to frontline health workers, home nursing workers and those over the age of 80 before it is given on a larger scale among the UK population
It is hoped that a safe and effective vaccine will help end the Coronavirus pandemic.
To date, more than 72.3 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 1.61 million related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
– Holly Elyat of CNBC contributed to this report.