LONDON (Reuters) – The British government said on Wednesday that large areas of England would be placed under its strictest COVID-19 restrictions, as a highly infectious virus variant sweeps the country, bringing the number of cases to a record high. .
Britain has reported almost 40,000 new infections, as the mutant coronavirus variant, which can be up to 70% more transmissible than the original, causes the number of cases and hospital admissions to skyrocket.
The number of recorded deaths – 744 – was also the highest since April.
“In this scenario of increasing infections, increasing hospitalizations and an increasing number of people dying from coronavirus, it is absolutely vital that we act,” said Health Minister Matt Hancock at a news conference. “We just can’t have the kind of Christmas we all look forward to.”
On Saturday, restrictive social mixing measures were implemented for London, southeastern England and Wales, while plans to ease restrictions over Christmas across the country were drastically reduced or canceled altogether.
Hancock said that as of December 26, many other parts of southern England would also be added to the highest level of social mix restrictions, joining the 16 million already at Level 4, while other areas of the country currently at lower levels they would also face more curb restrictions.
The governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland have already announced that almost everyone living in these countries will be subject to the highest level of restrictions after Christmas.
Hancock said there were an average of 1909 COVID hospital admissions per day, with 18,943 people currently hospitalized with the coronavirus, levels not seen since the peak of the first outbreak in April.
Reporting by Kate Holton and Guy Faulconbridge, written by Michael Holden, edited by Elizabeth Piper and Toby Chopra