England will be placed under the highest level of restrictions from Wednesday as a new variant of coronavirus has grappled the country. The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock told the parliament that "swift and decisive" actions were needed as the doubling rate of COVID-19 has hit just in seven days in several parts of London.
"I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that the variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it's highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine," he added.
Consequently, London will move to Tier 3 "very high alert" local restrictions on Wednesday. Under the Tier 3 restrictions, all hospitality venues, including restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes will be shut except for takeout and delivery. Indoor entertainment venues - such as bowling alleys and cinemas - will stay closed. People will not be allowed to travel to and from tier three areas.
Residents in London will also not be able to meet in private gardens and other outdoor venues. They may meet up to six people outside at parks, public gardens, or sports facilities. Retailers will be able to stay open.
Meanwhile, the UK health officials have notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the new variant as expert analysis continues.
However, multiple experts have said that the variant of coronavirus was not a that big a cause of concern and is unlikely to derail efforts to fight the pandemic.
'Just because there has been a small change in the virus' genetic makeup this does not mean it is any more virulent, nor that vaccines won't be effective,' said Tom Solomon, professor of neurology at the University of Liverpool.
"The emergence of different coronavirus strains...is neither cause for panic nor unexpected," Dr Zania Stamataki, a viral immunologist at the University of Birmingham said.
The outbreak of a new coronavirus variant in London has come at a time when the country has begun the vaccination drive. The vaccine that is being supplied to Europe, and all of the UKs 40 million doses (to be delivered in stages with the whole order completed by the end of 2021) come from Pfizer's manufacturing hub in Puurs, Belgium.
According to the latest data, the UK has reported 18,54,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 while the virus has claimed 64,268 lives in the island nation to date.
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