ANYONE who has travelled from South Africa in the last two weeks must quarantine now, the Health Secretary announced this afternoon.
Matt Hancock revealed a new strain of Covid has been found in the UK, with the two infected people close contacts of travellers from South Africa.
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He told the nation: "The other news I want to tell you about is about the development of another strain of this virus.
"We have detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK."
Mr Hancock warned this variant is 'highly concerning and yet more transmissible and appears to have mutated further'.
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has travelled from South Africa must also quarantine.
The Health Secretary also announced there are immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa to the UK.
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to Public Health England said: "We're still learning about the SA variant… but we are pretty confident that the system we have in place will help monitor the spread."
And Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said "we expect viruses to mutate so it's not a surprise", adding tier measures should prevent the spread.
It comes as…
- Dover chaos continues as drivers wait for their Covid tests
- The places where Covid variant is spreading most rapidly across UK was revealed – as the mutant strain has been located in 57 places
- Parents are furious over claims ‘schools may close for ALL of January’ after experts claim mutant Covid strain spreads faster in kids
- The R rate is thought to be as high as 1.5 in some areas
As he announced new areas facing Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, Mr Hancock said: "We all know that 2020 has been a hard year and it's ending in this festive period that is going to be very different.
"After all the efforts that we have gone to to control this virus… we've discovered a new more contagious virus, a variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate."
He said cases have risen by 57 per cent in the last week, with almost as many people in hospital with Covid now as in the peak.
Yesterday saw the biggest ever UK daily rise with 36,804 new positive tests and 691 deaths.
The daily figures showed Covid cases nearly doubled since the 18,450 infections recorded the same time last week.
The soaring infection levels saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce a new Tier 4 lockdown on Saturday which has plunged 16 million people back into virtual lockdown, with all pubs and non-essential shops shut and people urged to stay indoors.
Today Mr Hancock said areas moving to the toughest Tier 4 – where there is a stay at home order – from Boxing Day are: Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire – including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire as well as Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to Tier 3.
Cornwall and Herefordshire move from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
He gave a rallying cry to the country, saying: "This Christmas and the start of 2021 is going to be tough, the new variant makes everything much harder because it spreads so much faster.
"But we mustn't give up now, we know we can control this virus, we know we can get through it together. I know from the bottom of my heart that there are brighter days ahead."
The new mutant strain is feared to be present in every region of the UK, with health bosses and government ministers urging people living in Tier 4 areas not to travel to other parts of the country.
More than 2,000,000 positive tests and 68,000 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic in January this year.
The increase in cases is believed to be down to a new mutant strain of the virus which has swept London and the South East.
Data from Public Health England (PHE) states that out of the 315 local areas in England, 285 have seen a rise in case rates and 30 have seen a fall.
Today furious lorry drivers stuck in their cabs for days blocked a Dover port exit and clashed with cops this morning as 10,000 trucks are still stranded in England.
The first passengers from the UK arrived in Calais earlier after Emmanuel Macron opened the border – but thousands of drivers are still being blocked from leaving.
They have to show a negative test before they can cross into France, after the President raised fears over the mutant strain.
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