The variant is up to 70 percent more transferable than previous versions, although some scientists are skeptical. People in south east England, including London, have been told to stay at home.
LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson was alarmed by a rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus and abruptly reversed course on Saturday. He imposed a comprehensive ban on London and most of the south-east of England and banned gatherings beyond individual households during the Christmas season.
The decision, sir. Johnson announced after an emergency meeting of his cabinet after the government received new evidence of a variant that was first discovered in south-east England a few weeks ago and which the Prime Minister said was up to 70 percent more transferable than previous versions.
The new measures, which come into effect on Sunday, aim to cut the capital and its surrounding counties off from the rest of England. These are the most serious measures the UK government has taken since it lockdown the country in March, and reflect fears that the new variant could speed up the transmission of the virus over winter.
« If the virus changes its method of attack, we have to change our method of defense, » said one gloomy gentleman. Johnson said on Saturday. “We have to react to information as we have it because it is now spreading very quickly. ”
Viral mutations are not uncommon, and British officials said this variant was discovered in a handful of other countries without naming it. Government medical experts, however, expressed alarm at its apparent infectiousness and found that it now accounts for more than 60 percent of new infections reported in London.
Other scientists warned that the variant’s rapid spread does not necessarily mean it is more transmissible, which can only be determined with certainty through laboratory experimentation and other types of analysis. The prevalence could be due to other factors.
Regardless of the characteristics of the mutation, it is clear that the UK is facing an escalating crisis even if it puts in place a mass vaccination program. Nationwide, the pace of new infections has almost doubled in less than two weeks and jumps beyond most of Western Europe, although it is still well below the per capita rate in the USA.
Public health experts said the new variant adds to the urgency to tighten restrictions to try to eradicate the virus completely, as new mutations are a recurring phenomenon.
« Elimination is always better, » said Devi Sridhar, director of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “More virus circulation means more variants and mutations. ”
Mr. . Johnson’s abrupt reversal came after a cabinet meeting on Friday where a committee of the government’s Scientific Advisory Board presented evidence that new infections in London had nearly doubled in the past week and that the new variant accounted for a large proportion of those cases.
Senior government scientific advisor Patrick Vallance said there was no evidence that this version of the virus was more deadly or more resistant to vaccines than others. But dr. . Vallance, a doctor and medical researcher, said scientists had identified 23 changes in the new variant, an unusually large number, including several in the part of the virus that binds it to other cells. This could increase transferability.
Faster transmission would mean more cases, which would lead to more hospitalizations and deaths. The government said it had informed the World Health Organization of the spread of the new variant.
« This virus spreads more easily, » said Dr. . Vallance said when he met Mr.. . Johnson, ”and therefore further action is needed to maintain control. ”
The new exclusion zone covers the whole of Greater London and much of the surrounding south-east of the country, a densely populated area of almost 20 million people, a third of the English population. The restrictions will remain in effect for a minimum of two weeks and will become effective on Dec.. checked. 30th.
The government urged people to stay home except for urgent travel, medical appointments, and outdoor exercise. People outside the zone have been advised not to travel into the zone and people inside the zone are not allowed to travel outside overnight. Travel abroad is strongly recommended. Shops that are not necessary will be closed, as will gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and nail salons.
Although Mr.. . Johnson said just a few days ago that it would be « inhuman » to cancel Christmas, which will be the practical effect for much of the country. A plan allowing up to three households to meet during the holidays is being ditched in London and the South East with no mixing allowed.
Three households are allowed to gather elsewhere, but only on Christmas Day and not for the extended five-day period that was promised.
Mr. . Johnson’s announcement was an admission that England’s existing system of restrictions, which divided the country into three « levels » with different rules, was insufficient to control the spread of the virus. The newly announced lockdown will represent a new and tougher fourth level.
Mr. . Johnson has the legal power to tighten the rules himself and there is no plan to recall Parliament. But the announcement provoked an immediate backlash from opposition leaders and even members of his own conservative party.
« Millions of families across the country will be broken by this news if their Christmas plans are torn apart, » Labor Party leader Keir Starmer told the BBC. « I am really frustrated because I discussed this with the Prime Minister on Wednesday. He refused and urged people to have a « Merry Christmas » just three days later to tear their plans apart. « . ”
Mark Harper, chairman of a group of Conservative lawmakers who have criticized lockdown measures, said: “These changes must also be put to the vote in the House of Commons at the earliest possible time, even if it means calling back the House. ”
According to epidemiologists, the coronavirus has mutated many times since it first appeared in China in 2019. On Friday, South Africa reported that it had identified a variant that had triggered a new wave of infections. Scientists said it was different from the UK.
Most of these variants are not significant or widespread. However, with an increasing number of infected people – and presumably with a certain immunity – the mutational pressure on the pathogen also increases. Some of the new variants may be more transmissible or cause more severe illness than previous versions of the virus.
For months, Mr.. . Johnson has tried to balance his response to the virus with pressures not to harm the economy further. At times he has left other European leaders behind in introducing restrictions. At other times he appeared to oppose the advice of his own government’s scientific advisers.
Great Britain reported on Saturday 27. 052 new cases and 534 deaths. The death toll from the pandemic is the highest in Europe. Mr. Johnson pointed to the launch of a vaccine that Britain approved and administered before other Western countries as a glimmer of hope. He said 350. 000 people in the country would have received their first dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is a two-shot program.
But as the economy weakened, the lockdowns have become politically tense. When the government moved Manchester, Liverpool and other cities in the north where infection rates were higher to a more restrictive level, local officials complained that they were wrongly attacked. Life in London remained largely unchanged.
Last week, amid signs that London had become a new hot spot, Mr.. . Johnson placed the capital and most of the Southeast in Tier 3, the highest level of restrictions. But he kept his promise of a Christmas break in December. 23 to Dec. . 27, even when he begged people to keep family celebrations short and small.
« Merry Christmas », Mr. . Johnson said last week, announcing half-way, “but this year, unfortunately, preferably a very small Christmas. ”
Boris Johnson, Coronavirus, Christmas Day
World news – AU – Boris Johnson tightens U. . K. . Lockdown citing the fast-spreading version of the virus
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