At a press briefing from Downing Street on December 14, Matt Hancock revealed the UK has seen a 14% increase in cases in the last week.
He added, there are also “16,531 Covid patients in hospitals across the UK, which is also up.”
A strengthened three-tier system has replaced the lockdown measures, with 99% of England falling under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions, after scientists warned that the previous lower tiers “weren’t slowing the epidemic.”
The regulations subject businesses to Covid-secure guidelines or force them to close but, unlike the last tier-system, non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers will be open in all tiers.
Only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly are in Tier 1, but Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News more could join them after a review on December 16.
Despite the official review date due on December 16, Mr Hancock announced on December 14 that all 32 boroughs in Greater London, along with parts of Essex and Kent, will enter Tier 3 from 00.01 on Wednesday, December 16.
Ministers have chosen to act “ahead of the formal review date” to place Greater London and parts of Essex and Kent under the highest level of curbs. On the passing of these restrictions,
Addressing MP’s in the House of Commons, Mr Hancock shared: Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the South of England.”
He continued, stating the numbers of the new variant of coronavirus “are increasing rapidly”.
Read more: what are the rules in each tier?
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