On Monday scientists announced that a new Covid-19 strain had been discovered in England’s southeast that reportedly has a 70% higher infection rate than the original virus. It is this higher infection rate that is hypothesized to be the cause of the UK’s steep increase in Covid-19 cases, which have jumped by 40% in the past week.
Although no evidence has come to light indicating that the new strain is any more deadly than the strain the world is familiar with, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took reactionary steps with no hesitation.
When speaking to a news conference on Saturday alongside chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, Johnson laid out plans for a stricter lockdown of the UK, telling reporters, “It is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned. I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.” He then later emphasized the idea that, “When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense.”
This announcement comes in complete contradiction to the statement made by Johnson just days ago that to cancel Christmas would be “inhuman.”
The new lockdown went into effect on Saturday at midnight, and has a primary impact on London and large areas of southeast England, including Kent, most of Essex, and most of Surrey, as well Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, parts of Bedfordshire, Gosport, Portsmouth and Peterborough. These areas were under tier three restrictions, but now fall under a new classification known as tier four. More information on tiers 1 through 3 can be found here.
Under tier four lockdown, non-essential business, venues, and services will not be allowed to open, and contact between people will be limited to those only in the same household. Travel not absolutely necessary for education or work will also be banned, alongside staying overnight anywhere outside of local areas. The restrictions will remain in place for a two week minimum and will receive a review on December 30th.