President Donald Trump has criticized the UK's decision to introduce new lockdown restrictions before Christmas after a dangerous new strain of the coronavirus was discovered in England and sparked fears that it could soon reach the US.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that London and parts of south east England will be admitted to Tier 4 lockdown – the highest level of the UK's coronavirus alert system – from midnight.
The harsh new measures, which will affect 18 million people, mean all non-essential businesses must be closed and residents will have to stay home until December 30, pending officials review.
There is an increase in cases in the region that doctors believe may be powered by a fast-moving new variant of the coronavirus that is more than 70 percent more transmissible than existing strains and may have already reached other countries.
Though not believed to be any more deadly, the mutant strain has raised fears of a possible outbreak in the US, which is already battling record rates of hospitalizations and virus-related deaths.
President Trump criticized UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to impose strict lockdown restrictions across much of England on Saturday after scientists said they discovered a fast-moving, more infectious strain of virus in the country this week
Trump made it clear the US would not follow suit, claiming the cure couldn't be worse than the problem itself.
However, President Trump made it clear on Saturday that the US would not follow Johnson's decision.
“We don't want any locks. The cure can't be worse than the problem itself! & # 39; Trump said in a tweet and replied to the news.
The president has repeatedly stated that he is against another nationwide lockdown in favor of the economy and troubled businesses.
Trump has been widely criticized for his response to the pandemic, which now killed more than 300,000 Americans and infected nearly 17.5 million people.
UK Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance said Saturday the new strain of the virus had caused a surge in cases in England over the past two weeks and may have already reached other areas.
"This virus has taken hold, it's moving fast, and it's inevitably leading to a huge surge in hospital admissions," Vallance said.
& # 39; We think it can be in other countries as well. It could have started here, we don't know for sure. & # 39;
The news of the recent crackdown came as countless British people flocked to the main streets of the country (Oxford Street, picture) and the supermarkets to stock up on Christmas supplies
Medical researcher Sir Jeremy Farrar said "there is no part of the UK and anywhere in the world that shouldn't be concerned" about the new strain
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was important to act quickly
The news of the rapidly expanding new strain comes after the UK and US started rolling out their first batch of COVID-19 vaccines this week.
But Vallance said there was no evidence yet that the mutation could negate the effects of the vaccination.
What does a Level 4 lock mean in the UK?
Tier 4 is a new – and now the highest level – tiered coronavirus alert system in the UK.
Regions subject to a Tier 4 lockdown will have to close a non-essential business, as well as recreational facilities and personal care products such as hairdressers.
Residents must stay at home when they are not going to work and are advised not to travel anywhere else.
However, places of worship can remain open.
The rules will apply for a minimum of two weeks, with the situation to be considered at the next review point on December 30th.
People on other levels are advised not to go into the areas with the highest brace, while level 4 residents are not allowed to stay in lower infection sites.
Other countries have also reported variants of the virus. According to Reuters, South Africa triggered a second wave of infections on Friday, Reuters reported.
On Saturday, the UK reported 27,052 new COVID-19 cases and 534 deaths.
London now has the highest infection rates in England, and officials said the new mutation accounted for around 60 percent of cases in the capital.
UK chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the UK had alerted the World Health Organization that the new variant, identified this week as VUI202012 / 01, appears to be accelerating the spread of COVID-19.
The government's scientific advisors came to this conclusion based on preliminary modeling figures and continue to analyze the available data, he said.
"There is currently no evidence that the new strain is causing a higher death rate or affecting vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is being done to confirm this," Whitty said in a statement.
Whitty said the existing animal system worked in areas with very low levels of the new variant, but cases rose rapidly in places where it was prominent.
However, Johnson, whose initial response to the pandemic was criticized for being too slow, has been criticized for going ahead.
The move comes just days after the prime minister defied calls to change plans for the Christmas season, saying it would be "frankly inhuman" to ban it.
A planned relaxation of the socialization rules would have made it possible for up to three households to meet in "Christmas bubbles" from December 23rd to 27th.
Those who are now in Tier 4 will not be allowed to mingle with others during the Christmas holidays while everyone else is allowed to watch Friends and family only for the current day, December 25th.
The prime minister was beaten up for attempting to reverse a proposed relaxation of socialization rules during the Christmas season
Today's announcement is expected to leave 17.7 million people – roughly a third of the population of England – under the toughest Tier 4 lockdown
People wear face masks when carrying shopping bags walking past shop windows on Regent Street in London on Thursday December 3, 2020
The Tier 4 lockdown, which affects around a third of the UK population, requires residents to stay at home except for essential reasons such as work.
The non-essential retail trade will be closed, as will the indoor leisure and entertainment options, and the social mix will be limited to meeting another person in an outdoor area.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I have to tell you that we cannot continue Christmas as planned," said Johnson.
He said he had come to the conclusion that "there is no alternative for me" and that people must sacrifice this Christmas to have a better chance of protecting the lives of their loved ones.
No mixing of households is allowed in Tier 4, except under very limited conditions outside of public places. Travel to and from Tier 4 areas is only permitted if it is absolutely necessary.
The rest of England will not go unharmed. Up to three households are only allowed to mingle on Christmas Day and no longer between December 23 and 27.
Wales has also announced a full lockdown from midnight and will follow suit by reducing bubbles to a single day.
First Scottish Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at her own press conference tonight that a ban on cross-border travel will be tightened and the law will be changed to reduce bubbles to one day.
She also said that mainland Scotland will be at the highest level 4 from Boxing Day – by that time around 28 million people in all four UK countries will face the toughest restrictions.
The changes are changing the plans of millions of people looking forward to meeting family and friends next week, forcing the results to revise their travel plans at the last minute.
Before Saturday, government officials claimed they would allow small private gatherings.
The UK retail consortium said it was "extremely unfortunate news", especially just two weeks after a month-long lockdown in England ended and at the height of the highest retail period of the year.
"Retailers have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in making businesses COVID-safe for customers and employees," said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the trade organization. "For businesses, the government's stop-start approach is deeply of little help."
The UK has been one of the hardest hit European countries – with more than 67,000 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 2 million reported cases.
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