A new variant of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the UK, with more than 1,000 cases across 60 local authorities.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock shared the news to the House of Commons in a briefing on Monday afternoon, where he also said that London, parts of Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire would be placed under tier 3 lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.
MPs from those areas who spoke to Mr Hancock have reported the next review of tiers will be on December 23, and would be weekly from now on — though Mr Hancock did not say this in his speech.
Mr Hancock said the main focus of the new strain so far had been predominantly in the south-east of England, but could not say the impact of the new strain.
He moved to reassure MPs that there was no suggestion that the new variant of the coronavirus would not respond to the vaccine, or that it would cause serious disease.
The World Health Organisation has been notified and work is being done at the Porton Down science park to examine the new virus.
Mr Hancock praised the roll-out of the virus vaccine this week. “Day by day we’re giving hope to more people,” he said.
“However, it will take more time for the benefits to be felt far and wide.
“Until we can vaccinate enough vulnerable people we must act to suppress this virus.”
He called on people not to waver “as we enter the final stretch.”