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Tougher restrictions expected in response to new strain of COVID-19

Tougher restrictions expected in response to new strain of COVID-19

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce tougher restrictions for London and parts of South East England later following an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss significant concerns about a new variant of COVID-19.

It was announced on Monday that a new variant of COVID-19 had been identified through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance.

Boris Johnson is expected to front a press conference from Downing Street after 4pm this afternoon. He is expected to announce tighter restrictions for London and the South East of England and a change to the extent to which Coronavirus restrictions will be eased over the festive period.

According to as yet unconfirmed reports, non-essential retail will be closed in the capital and people in affected areas will be ordered to 'stay at home', including over the Christmas period.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty is to join Mr Johnson at the press conference. In a statement on Saturday afternoon, Professor Whitty said;

"As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.

"We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.

"There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this.

"Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission."

A call between the four nations of the UK was also held earlier on Saturday to discuss the variant of the virus.

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has been chairing a meeting of the Welsh Cabinet following the call. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon also said she would be charging a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet, saying in a tweet, "Cases currently at lower level in Scotland than rUK - but preventative action may be necessary to stop faster spreading strain taking hold".

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