Tighter restrictions in London and southeast England to curb a new fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus could stay in place for some time, Britain’s health minister suggested on Sunday, but added a new national lockdown was not inevitable.
With COVID-19 cases surging, Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the effective lockdown on more than 16 million people on Saturday and reversed plans to ease curbs over Christmas, saying the new strain was up to 70% more transmissible than the original.
Health Minister Matt Hancock, asked whether people living under the stringent new Tier 4 restrictions should expect to do so for some time, told Sky News: “We’ve got a long way to go to sort this.
Keep people safe
“Essentially we’ve got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe. Given how much faster this new variant spreads, it’s going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out.” Johnson’s move on Saturday sparked concern among business groups, with the Confederation of British Industry calling them a “real kick in the teeth” for many businesses.
Speaking on the BBC, Hancock said a new national lockdown was “not necessarily” inevitable.
“One of the reasons we brought in the strict travel movements in Tier 4 ... is to try to stop this new variant from spreading,” he told the “Andrew Marr Show”.