London | A new variant of the novel coronavirus has been detected in the UK, potentially involved in the rampant transmission seen in parts of England, causing London and parts of the south-east to pass through the highest level of restrictions from Wednesday.
Announcing this hardening to MPs on Monday to “lower the curve”, Minister of Health Matt Hancock explained that a new “variant” of the virus had been identified in the United Kingdom and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO ).
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This strain, identified at this stage in more than 1000 British patients, could be involved in the “exponential” spread of the virus in the south-east of England, without knowing “to what extent”, according to Matt Hancock.
He wanted to be reassuring by specifying that nothing so far indicated that it causes a more serious form of the disease, nor that it does not respond to a vaccine.
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Mutations in a virus are common. Some make them more resistant to treatment or vaccines, but others have “absolutely no effect,” Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said in a statement.
According to Prof. Alan McNally of the University of Birmingham, “it is too early to be concerned or not about this new variant” because it was quickly identified and studied to understand its characteristics and emergence.
From 12:01 am on Wednesday, hotels, pubs and restaurants will be closed in London and parts of the south-east, except for delivery and take-out, as well as cultural venues such as cinemas, theaters and museums.
The shift to these restrictions is “essential not only to ensure the safety of the population, but because, as we have seen, early action can prevent more damage and later problems in the long run”, argued Matt. Hancock in front of the deputies.
“Disaster” for theaters
Employees who can, must work from home and the population must avoid non-essential trips. Social interactions are limited, with the ban on mixing with people from another household except in certain open places such as parks.
Schools, shops, beauty and hairdressing salons may remain open, as well as sports halls, but without providing group lessons.
Deeming such a move “very disappointing” for business, Labor Mayor Sadiq Khan called on Londoners to follow the rules. “The worst thing” would be “a new lockdown” on the New Year, he said.
The news hits the very many theaters of London’s West End hard. A “disaster”, reacted the director of Theaters Trust, which represents the sector. “Theaters have worked hard to create safe environments for the public” and risk “huge financial losses,” he added.
Faced with the spread of the virus in secondary schools, the government launched a massive screening campaign last week among young people aged 11 to 18 in seven of London’s 32 boroughs and in parts of the country. Essex and Kent.
Two of the districts of the British capital, Greenwich and Islington, have opted for the closure of all schools.
But in London, the disease is now progressing in all age groups and is already reflected in an increase in hospitalizations.
One of the most bereaved countries in Europe with more than 64,000 dead, the United Kingdom, which has seen two lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, is the first Western country to start a vaccination campaign, after being the first in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
These new restrictions are being imposed as the Christmas period approaches, awaited with great fear by the authorities who have however decided to loosen the screws a few days at the end of the month to allow families to reunite.