UK identifies new coronavirus variant; London on toughest curbs

A new variant of the novel coronavirus has been identified in the United Kingdom that could be partly linked to a rapid rise in infections, the government has said, as authorities placed London and its surrounding areas under the country’s highest level of COVID-19 restrictions.

Although there was currently nothing to suggest the new strain was likely to cause more serious disease or that it would not respond to a vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday it could be contributing to higher infection rates.

“Over the last week, we’ve seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire,” he told the House of Commons in a statement, referring to counties near the capital.

“We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant, but no matter its cause, we have to take swift and decisive action,” he said, announcing that the entire capital and some neighbouring areas would go into “Tier 3” restrictions from Wednesday.

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