UK fights new COVID strain, PM orders tighter curbs

JOHNSON: “First, we will introduce new restrictions in the most-affected areas…”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday imposed tighter restrictions on millions of people in the UK and drastically scaled back plans to ease restrictions over Christmas.

The number of COVID-19 cases in England has soared in the last two weeks because of a variant of the virus… one that scientists say is up to 70% more transmissible.

Even though Johnson and his scientific advisors believe vaccines will still be effective, and the new strain is NOT more deadly… he said urgent action was needed:

“Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned. In England, those living in Tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas."

London and southeast England - about a third of the country’s population - will now be placed in a new Tier 4 level of rules… requiring people to stay at home except for essential reasons such as work.

Non-essential retail and indoor entertainment will close. Social mixing will be limited to meeting one other person in an outdoor space.

Opposition Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, was critical of the prime minister who on Wednesday said it would be ‘inhuman’ to ban Christmas:

“…Millions of families across the country are going to be heartbroken by this news, having their Christmas plans ripped up. And I'm really frustrated because I raised this with the prime minister on Wednesday. And he dismissed that and went on to tell people to have a merry little Christmas, only three days later to rip up their plans.”

The new rules will come into effect at midnight on Saturday.

Video Transcript

BORIS JOHNSON: First, we will introduce new restrictions in the most affected areas.

- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Saturday, imposed tighter restrictions on millions of people in the UK and drastically scaled back plans to ease restrictions over Christmas.

The number of COVID-19 cases in England has soared in the last two weeks because of a variant of the virus, one that scientists say is up to 70% more transmissible. Even though Johnson and his scientific advisors believe vaccines will still be effective and the new strain is not more deadly, he said urgent action was needed.

BORIS JOHNSON: Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned. In England, those living in tier four areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas.

- London and Southeast England, about a third of the country's population, will now be placed in a new tier four level of rules, requiring people to stay at home except for essential reasons such as work. Non-essential retail and indoor entertainment will close. Social mixing will be limited to meeting one other person in an outdoor space.

Opposition Labor leader, Keir Starmer, was critical of the prime minister--

BORIS JOHNSON: We can celebrate it sensibly--

- --who on Wednesday said it would be inhuman to ban Christmas.

KEIR STARMER: Millions of families across the country are going to be heartbroken by this news, having their Christmas plans ripped up. And I'm really frustrated because I raised this with the prime minister on Wednesday and he dismissed that and went on to tell people to have a merry little Christmas, only three days later to rip up their plan.

- The new rules will come into effect at midnight on Saturday.