New coronavirus strain is ‘out of control,’ UK Health Minister says
Sunday, 20 December 2020
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that the new strain of new coronavirus (Covid-19) in the UK is “out of control,” which is why a lockdown had to be reinstituted in London and other parts of England.
“Unfortunately, the new strain is out of control,” Hancock said on Sky News TV. “We’ve got to get it under control, and the only way you could do that was by restricting social contact.”
On Saturday evening, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that a strict lockdown was being reinstituted in and around London as well as other parts of England, now designated “Tier 4” areas.
Under the new lockdown, effective 20 December, people in the areas concerned are not allowed to travel outside their zones. Over 16 million residents are now obliged to stay at home and call off Christmas gatherings.
Non-essential shops and stores will remain closed, as will hairdressers and gyms, in addition to pubs, restaurants and museums, which were already closed.
“Essentially, especially in Tier 4 areas, everybody needs to behave as if they have the virus, and that’s the way we can get it under control and keep people safe,” Hancock said.
He noted that it would be “an enormous challenge” to keep the virus under control until the Covid-19 vaccine was completely rolled out. This was what the UK would be facing over the next two months, he added.
The new strain appeared in mid-September in London or in the south-eastern county of Kent, according to the Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government, Patrick Vallance.
The UK government has informed the World Health Organisation (WHO) that it has been spreading faster than the original strain – up to 70% faster, according to Boris Johnson.
Vallance indicated that, in addition to spreading faster, the new strain was also becoming the “dominant” one, leading to a “very high increase” in hospitalisations in December.
Previous mutations of the Covid-19 virus have also been observed elsewhere in the world.