Christmas cancelled: New strain of coronavirus ‘out of control’ in UK; flights banned
Matt Hancock, Britain’s Health Secretary admitted that the COVID-19 is out of control, hours after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a lockdown in London, sparking fury by cancelling Christmas and some countries imposing flight bans.
He has also warned that London could be under a lockdown for months, as it will be "very difficult" to keep a highly infectious mutant strain of the novel coronavirus under control until vaccinations are rolled out.
His remarks on Sunday came just hours after the new Tier Four restrictions came into force in the British capital and parts of southeast England, reports Xinhua news agency. The new tighter restrictions will be reviewed on December 30.
"It is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out," he told Sky News. "We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present. All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant. That is the fundamental problem," the Health Secretary added.
On December 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for more than 16 million people in London, south-eastern and eastern England as the region went into a new two-week lockdown on Sunday midnight.
An estimated 16.4 million people living in the new Tier Four areas, which include London and much of the surrounding region, will have to stay at home for a fortnight. They will be barred from socialising with more than one person even outdoors, meaning no Christmas gatherings of entire families, while shops, leisure facilities, gyms and hairdressers will be closed.
The UK has so far reported a total of 2,046,161 coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, while the death toll stood at 67,503.
Meanwhile, The Netherlands, Italy and Belgium have banned flights to and from the UK to prevent the new COVID-19 variant from entering the countries.
(With inputs from IANS)