More areas of the east and south of England will move into tier four later this week in the fight to control the coronavirus pandemic, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
The decision comes after a new variant of COVID-19, which is able to be transmitted faster than the previous variant, was found to be spreading quickly across the south of the country.
Following the government’s decision to move London and parts of the south-east into Tier 4 on Saturday (December 20), Hancock announced at a press conference earlier today (23) more areas would be joining them in the new tier.
Parts of Essex that were not already in tier four will now be under those rules, along with Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Waverley and Hampshire (excluding the New Forest).
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and North Somerset, Swindon, the Isle Of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire will move into tier three. Two areas in the north of England – Cheshire and Warrington – will also move into this tier, while Cornwall and Herefordshire will move into tier two.
The new tiers will come into place at one minute past midnight on Boxing Day. Under tier four rules, people will not be allowed to leave or be outside of their home or garden except for where they have a “reasonable excuse”. The permitted reasons include work, volunteering, essential activities – such as grocery shopping, depositing money at the bank, or accessing critical public services – going to school, exercising and more.
During today’s press conference, Hancock said coronavirus cases in England had risen 57 percent over the past week and hospital admissions were at 1,909 a day – the highest figure since mid-April, when the pandemic was at its previous peak.
“This is not news that anybody wants to deliver and we are truly sorry for the disruption it causes,” he said.
He also announced another new variant had been discovered in two cases in the UK, both of whom are close contacts of someone who had travelled into the country from South Africa. The government is now calling for anyone who has entered the UK from South Africa in the last fortnight – or is a close contact of someone who has – to quarantine immediately, while restrictions are being placed on travel.
The Health Secretary also confirmed that vaccinations have now begun in England’s care homes.
The first vaccination was administered in the UK on December 8 to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan. In the weeks since, Sir Ian McKellan has confirmed that he had also received the vaccine, saying he felt “very lucky”. “I would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone,” he said.