Large parts of England will be placed under Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, the health secretary announced Wednesday amid a jump in coronavirus case numbers.
Wednesday saw a further 39,237 new cases of coronavirus across the UK over the past 24 hours, and a further 744 deaths.
This is the highest increase in the daily number of cases since the start of the pandemic, and the highest daily death toll since April 29.
The total number of cases now stands at nearly 2.15 million and the total number of deaths at 69,051.
The new measures came as infections rose 57% across the country over the last week as a new variant of COVID-19 was discovered, Matt Hancock said.
The areas to come under the strictest tier with lockdown-like restrictions are Essex, Norfolk, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire, and Hampshire.
Going into Tier 3 will be Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington, he said.
“The new variant makes everything much harder but we mustn’t give up now,” Hancock said.
After the discovery of a new variant, the British government quickly changed its previous decision to relax gathering rules over the Christmas holiday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reduced the number of days people could meet over the festive period to only Christmas Day.
More than 40 countries have halted flights from the UK since last Saturday.
New variant from South Africa
Hancock said there are two cases of another new variant in the UK, and both were contacts of cases who traveled from South Africa.
"We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for their science," he said, adding that the UK is quarantining new cases and placing restrictions on travel from South Africa.
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