The prime minister announced on Saturday that London and the southeast of England, where cases are increasing, will enter Level 4 restrictions, similar to the lockdown, on Sunday.
“The spread is driven by the new type of virus,” Johnson said at a hastily-summoned press conference. “It appears to spread more easily and may be up to 70% more transmissible than the previous strain.”
“This is now spreading very quickly,” Johnson warned. “With a very heavy heart I say that we cannot go on Christmas as planned.”
Johnson explained that in areas with the most severe restrictions, there would be no possibility of home mingling over Christmas. In areas under level 3, mixes will now be limited to Christmas Day.
Country Prime Minister Mark Drakford announced on Saturday that Alert Level 4 restrictions will be introduced to be applied across Wales from midnight, meaning that “party bubbles” can only be formed on Christmas Day, the Palestinian News Agency reported. Under alert level 4, people should stay home only for very limited purposes, and should not meet with other families or meet people they do not live with, while many businesses have to close.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicolas Sturgeon said Saturday that a strict travel ban will be enforced throughout the Christmas period north of the border, warning that people from Scotland should not visit other parts of the UK, and vice versa.
“In order to reduce the risk of further importing the Coronavirus strain into Scotland, we intend to maintain strict travel bans between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom,” said Sturgeon.
At the same time, she added, the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions would apply across Scotland for three weeks from Boxing Day.
No changes to Northern Ireland restrictions have been announced yet.
Critics have criticized Johnson’s handling of the pandemic
Most recently this week, Johnson repeated his pledge to relax the rules over the Christmas period, allowing up to three families to mix for five days. But starting on Saturday, the entire nation is required not to travel, and those subject to the highest level of restrictions will only be permitted to travel abroad for business purposes.
Kerr Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, criticized the government’s handling of the crisis, saying, “Many people will be saddened by the news of their plans being torn apart at Christmas.”
“I’m really disappointed that I brought this up with the prime minister on Wednesday, and he denied it. He went on to tell people to have a ‘Merry Christmas’, just three days later, to tear up their plans,” he said on Sky News.
Experts are urgently seeking to clarify a new strain of the virus
According to Whitty, the new substitute is responsible for 60% of injuries in London, which nearly doubled in the past week.
He said earlier that “urgent work” was underway to determine whether the new strain spread in southeast England could cause a higher death rate.
“There is no current evidence to suggest that the new strain causes a high mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” Whitty said in a statement.
As with other new variants or strains of Covid-19, this one carries a genetic footprint that makes it easy to track, and it happens to be common now. This does not mean that the mutation has made it easier to spread, nor does it necessarily mean that this difference is more dangerous.
Many experts in the genetics and epidemiology of viruses note that this may just be a “lucky” strain that has been amplified by a hyperproliferative event; The mutation could somehow cause it to spread more easily without causing more serious disease; Or it could just be a coincidence.
The government’s Covid-19 Scientific Advisory Group has also warned that the new strain is a “real cause for concern,” and called for urgent action. Jeremy Farrar said on Twitter: “Research is underway to understand more, but work urgently now is critical. No part of the UK and the world should not care. As is the case in many countries, the situation is fragile.”
Witty also urged people to take more precautions. “Given this latest development, it is now more important than ever that the public continue to take measures in their area to reduce transmission,” he said.