The hopes that many residents of Britain had concerning enjoying the holiday period without a lockdown in effect may have been dashed after scientists identified a new strain of the coronavirus that spreads at an alarming rate more than the others.
The earlier restrictions that had been in place over a month now are due to expire during the Christmas period only for the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce even stricter lockdown measures. The authorities in Scotland and Wales replicated the same measures.
The new announcement, made by the prime minister, indicated that London and a significant portion of southern and eastern England would be placed on Tier 4 restrictions on Sunday. Johnson, in his statement during a press conference that was hurriedly put together, said this new variant of the virus caused the latest rapid spread of the coronavirus infection.
He noted that the new strain was up to 70% more transmissible than the previous strain. The Chief Medical Officer of England also reechoed the same warning by Johnson that the newly-identified variant spreads faster than others.
Johnson said that although it was not the expected way millions had expected to celebrate their Christmas, the normal celebrations cannot go on as planned. He identified areas that the Tier 4 restrictions would take place, emphasizing that households cannot mix in these areas. However, areas on lower Tier levels in England, Scotland, and Wales can mix during Christmas.
According to Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford, the stringent restriction is expected to commence all around Wales from midnight. This means that millions of residents would only have the opportunity to see family members on Christmas Day. Tier Level 4 restricts residents to their homes only, except for very limited purposes. Residents are also not allowed to meet up with people of other households. On the other hand, a lot of businesses are shut down.
On Saturday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a travel ban would be enforced during the Christmas period. This means that residents of Scotland are prevented from visiting other places in the UK. The same measure is applicable to those in the UK. Sturgeon explained that the measure was highly necessary to prevent the new strain of the virus from reaching Scotland. She added that tougher restrictions would be implemented on Boxing Day.
There were no changes in restriction in Northern Ireland, which is expected to begin its lockdown on December 26th. Early last week, Johnson had hinted about relaxing the lockdown measures. He was criticized for considering taking this step.
Kier Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, berated the way and manner the government has handled the pandemic. Starmer was particularly frustrated by the false hope Johnson had given Britons during the week when he promised to relax the restrictions only to change plans. He noted that the actions of the prime minister had spoiled the Christmas plans of lots of people.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said news of the new restrictions was devastating. He particularly pointed out the hasty manner the announcements were made, leaving many people stranded at various train and airport terminals.
Experts are still trying to gain more information about the new strain of the coronavirus. Studies have already commenced establishing if the strain causes a higher mortality rate. The UK has the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths in Europe, with the death toll reaching more than 67,000 and over 2 million cases.