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London will start tightest restrictions this week; PM says UK patients have new virus variant

Virus Outbreak Britain
Posted at 12:46 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 15:46:26-05

LONDON — Britain's health secretary says London and it surrounding areas will be placed under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions beginning Wednesday as infections rise rapidly in the capital.

Matt Hancock said Monday that the government must take swift action after seeing “very sharp, exponential rises” in Greater London and nearby areas. Under Tier 3 restrictions, the toughest level, people can’t socialize indoors and bars, pubs and restaurants must close except for takeout.

He said in some areas cases are doubling every seven days.

Hancock told lawmakers that officials have identified “a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the south of England.” He said so far, about 1,000 cases of the variant have been identified in England, and they have alerted the World Health Organization.

At this time, experts in the UK say it does not appear that the new variant of coronavirus is more transmissible, or more infectious or dangerous.

"Huge efforts are ongoing at characterising the variant and understanding its emergence. It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time," Professor Alan McNally, an expert at the University of Birmingham, told the BBC.

The World Health Organization is among those studying the new virus strain, which has been identified in other countries in recent months.