Many more areas plunged into Tier 4 from Boxing Day

23 December 2020, 15:15 | Updated: 24 December 2020, 07:35

Matt Hancock has announced more areas will be plunged into Tier 4 from Boxing Day
Matt Hancock has announced more areas will be plunged into Tier 4 from Boxing Day. Picture: Downing Street

By Kate Buck

The Health Secretary has announced more areas will be plunged into Tier 4 lockdown from Boxing Day, as he admitted Tier 3 restrictions are "not enough" to keep the virus at bay.

East Sussex, Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Waverly, Hampshire - with exception of the New Forest - will all go into the highest tier from 00.01 on Saturday.

Those going into Tier 3 will include Bristol, Gloucestershire, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire.

Read more: Two cases of ‘more transmissible’ Covid-19 variant linked to South Africa found in UK

Cornwall and Herefordshire are all escalated to Tier 2.

The latest measures mean an extra 6.3 million people in England will go into Tier 4, bringing the nationwide total in England to 24.2 million - just under 43% of the total population.

Speaking at today's Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said he understood his "actions have consequences" but said action need to be taken to tackle the rising cases.

He added that Covid-19 is spreading at a "dangerous rate" across large parts of England.

More areas have been told they will be going into tier 4
More areas have been told they will be going into tier 4. Picture: ElectionMapsUK

The Health Secretary told a press conference: "Just as we've got a tiered system in place that was able to control this virus, we've discovered a new more contagious virus, a variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate.

He added: "Against this backdrop of rising infections, rising hospitalisations and rising numbers of people dying from coronavirus it is absolutely vital that we act.

"We simply cannot have the kind of Christmas that we all yearn for."

He also warned of a new coronavirus variant found in South Africa, and told anyone who has been to South Africa in the last two weeks to immediately quarantine.

There have been two cases of this variant discovered so far.

Mr Hancock said: "Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks."

Read more: Coronavirus - What is Tier 4 and which areas are in Tier 4?

He added: "We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for the rigour of their science and the openness and the transparency with which they have rightly acted as we did when we discovered a new variant here."

Mr Hancock continued: "This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK."

The Health Secretary said both cases and close contacts of the cases have been quarantined, there are immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa and the Government is telling those who have been in contact with anyone who has been in South Africa in the last fortnight that they must quarantine.

He added: "These measures are temporary while we investigate further this new strain which is shortly to be analysed at Porton Down."

Mr Hanock said the new strain is being investigated at Porton Down
Mr Hanock said the new strain is being investigated at Porton Down. Picture: PA

Genomic researchers have found a new variant spreading through the country, which is said to be 70% more infectious than previous strains, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland.

Health chiefs in Cumbria have said the new variant is in the county and could be behind sharp increases in new cases, while Lancashire's director of public health said there was a "high likelihood" the new variant was in the county.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the Prime Minister to say his party would back any Government moves to tighten restrictions if that is what scientists recommended.

Sinn Fein has said an island-wide travel shutout should be introduced in Ireland to stem the spread of the new variant there.