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Britain concerned over new strain of coronavirus; Vigilance across the country

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have expressed concern over the new strain of the coronavirus.

Britain has already implemented a series of control measures to combat COVID-19 in some parts of the country. Fourth level restrictions have been imposed in many parts of the country.

Mr. Hancock said the additional restrictions on England announced by Boris Johnson would continue for the next two months. Level four restrictions are in place in London and most of south-east England and Wales. Travel in and out is completely restricted here.

The police presence at the border has doubled. Scotland has banned all travel into and out of the country from other parts of the UK.

In Northern Ireland, Stormont has convened an executive meeting to discuss implications of the new variant of COVID-19. Scotland and Wales have limited Christmas celebrations to one day. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is also planning to make similar arrangements.

The Health Secretary said the virus, which scientists have found could spread more quickly, poses a serious challenge to the UK. “I am really worried about the NHS. There are currently just over 18,000 in NHS hospitals with coronavirus. That is only just below the number there were at the first peak. It is another reason why everybody needs to follow the new rules and take that personal responsibility,” Mr. Hancock said.

Christmas celebrations were canceled in London, the south-east, and the east of England. A two-week lockdown has been announced in these areas.

Matt Hancock said the cancellation of Christmas this year is to celebrate next year even better. Under the new Tier 4 rules non-essential shops, as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers are closed. People are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

In other parts of England, Christmas celebrations were cut short. Health experts estimate that the virus is 70% more likely to spread than the first wave. Following the announcement, train stations in London were overcrowded. There were no tickets available online from several London stations including Paddington, Kings Cross and Euston. There was a huge rush at St Pancras station waiting to board trains to Leeds.

The decision to tighten the restrictions was made following the confirmation by Scientists from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) at Public Health England laboratories at Porton Down that mutated viruses are spreading more rapidly.

Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the new variant, known as VUI 202012/01, was thought to have originated in London or Kent in September.

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