U.K.’s Hancock Says New Covid Mutation Is ‘Out of Control’
- Hancock sees restrictions in place until vaccination rollout
- Johnson’s Tories urge parliamentary vote on new restrictions
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the new strain of the coronavirus is “out of control” and suggested parts of England will be stuck in the new, highest tier of restrictions until a vaccine is rolled out.
More than 16 million Britons are now required to stay at home after a lockdown came into force Sunday in London and southeast England and the government scrapped plans to relax rules on socializing at Christmas.
The measures to control the fast-spreading new variant of the virus forbid household mixing in those areas and restrict socializing to just Christmas Day across the rest of England. Residents across the country were told to keep to their local areas, and extra police were being deployed at rail stations to stop people traveling out of London.
“Cases have absolutely rocketed, so we’ve got a long way to go,” Hancock told Sky News. “I think it will be very difficult to keep it under control until the vaccine has rolled out.” People in the new Tier 4 areas “should behave as though they have it,” he said.
Hancock said that as of Saturday morning 350,000 people had been vaccinated, with the ambition to reach 500,000 by the end of the weekend.
Johnson had originally planned to ease pandemic rules for five days during the holiday, but made an abrupt change of tack after emergency talks on the virus mutation with officials.
Emerging scientific evidence suggests the new variant — which Hancock said has also appeared in Australia and continental Europe — can spread significantly more quickly than previous strains in circulation and is behind the surge in infections in recent days.