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Lockdown in London? New coronavirus strain disrupts Christmas in UK

Lockdown in London? New coronavirus strain disrupts Christmas in UK

The UK, particularly its capital city London, is once again under a severe lockdown after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tier-4 restrictions to control a surge of infections caused by a virulent new coronavirus strain. Besides London, large parts of south east England too have been put under lockdown.

Johnson said the latest infections in parts of England are "being driven by the new variant of the virus. The new variant may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible… we cannot continue with Christmas as planned," Johnson said. The government acted swiftly and called an emergency meeting of the cabinet.

The country also informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about the new strain. <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-55382212" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><strong>The BBC reported </strong></a>that the WHO is in "close contact" with UK officials over the emergence of the new strain.

"The new variant is spreading more rapidly than the original version, but is not believed to be more deadly… There is no evidence to suggest the new variant reacts differently to vaccines," said the BBC.

The British government has reinforced optimism over its vaccination plan. It says that the coronavirus vaccine will remain effective against the new strain as well, which has caused the number of Covid-19 cases to double in London in just around a week.

London is witnessing its most severe lockdown after the country began vaccinating people against the coronavirus in the second week of December. It is prioritising the vaccines for frontline health workers and people over 80 years old, becoming the first in the world to kickstart vaccinations against the contagion.

The UK is feeling the pinch of the new variant as the Netherlands has banned flights from London till January 1. The Dutch government also plans to speak with other European countries to ensure that the new strain from the UK does not spread. Even Scotland has said it will impose a travel ban to the UK.

The new social distancing restrictions come at the height of Christmas festivities, gatherings and shopping. Residents have been advised to stay at home, continue to work from home and have been asked to not enter or leave tier-4 areas. Non-essential retail, shopping and indoors gyms have been asked to shut down. Restaurants and pubs cannot serve indoors but can provide takeaway services.

Addressing a news conference, Johnson said: “It is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned. I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.” Earlier, the government had planned to ease lockdown restrictions from 23-27 December. Those plans have been thrown out of the window by the new coronavirus strain.

Retailers will be hard hit with the surge in cases. US tech company Apple plans to shut down its nearly one dozen stores in London due to the new spread.

The UK is one of the badly hit European countries with 2,010,077 infections and a death toll of 67,177.