The UK government has decided to place London under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday due to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in the city as a new variant of coronavirus has been identified which is responsible for the “faster spread” of the deadly viral disease.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons that “swift and decisive action” was needed to keep things under control in London and surrounding areas.
The tier-3 restrictions announced by the British government mean that London will be placed under a near-complete lockdown.
“A new variant of coronavirus has been identified in the UK, which may be associated with the fastest spread in the southeast of England,” said Hancock in Parliament.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty said current coronavirus swab tests would detect the new variant that has been found predominantly in Kent and neighboring areas in recent weeks.
“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 which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out? We must act now to shift the curve? because when the virus moves quickly, we must move quickly too,” he added.
The World Health Organisation is aware of reports that a new variant of COVID-19 has been identified in the United Kingdom, although there is no evidence to suggest that the mutation will impact the effectiveness of vaccines against the disease, WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Mike Ryan said on Monday.
On a question about #COVID19 virus variant from the 🇬🇧, @mvankerkhove answered: “So far, we don’t have any evidence that this variant behaves differently. But we will continue to evaluate & inform you of any changes.”
Soundbytes from the briefing 👉https://t.co/abTkJ5zkGM
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) December 14, 2020
According to the WHO official, there was no evidence to suggest that the new variant of the disease would transmit more easily or undermine vaccines against COVID-19 that are being rolled out.
“Does this make this virus more serious? Does it allow the virus to transmit more easily? Does it in any way interfere with diagnostics? Would it in any way interfere with vaccine effectiveness? None of these questions have been addressed yet, and we have no information to suggest that any of that is the case,” Ryan remarked.
The UK began its mass vaccination program, using a vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, this past Tuesday.