New coronavirus strain led Prime Minister Boris Johnson to cancel, on Sunday, festive plans for millions of people, bringing in new Tier 4, under a two-week lockdown, southeast and eastern England and Wales.
“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,” Johnson said in the Downing Street news conference.
“Without action the evidence suggests that infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed and many thousands more would lose their lives,” Johnson added in the conference.
“Yes Christmas this year will be different, very different,” he asserted. “We’re sacrificing the chance to see our loved ones this Christmas so that we have a better chance of protecting their lives, so that we can see them at future Christmases.”
He claimed that there was "considerable uncertainty," the new coronavirus strain "may be up to 70% more transmissible" than the original version of the disease.
"It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus," the prime minister noted.
"Our advisory group on new and emerging respiratory threats, NERVTAG, has spend the last few days analyzing this new variant — there's no evidence that it causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily."
On his part, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that "The Government did not want to cancel Christmas but it is our duty to act," adding that "New coronavirus strain was out of control."
“It is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until the vaccines are rolled out,” Hancock asserted, noting that it was “totally irresponsible behavior” to travel following the announcement of the new restrictions.
In the same context, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford mentioned that he was bringing forward alert Level four restrictions for Wales from Sunday, in line with the Tier 4 rules in England, while Christmas “bubbles” would be confined to Christmas Day only.
“The situation is incredibly serious. I cannot overstate this,” he said. “We cannot expose people to the risk of this new, more virulent strain of coronavirus.”