Stricter lockdown measures could be introduced across England as mutant coronavirus strain is now 'everywhere'

Stricter lockdown measures could be introduced across England as mutant coronavirus strain is now 'everywhere'
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a virtual news conference, after chairing a COBRA meeting, which was called in response to increased travel restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, December 21, 2020.Tolga Akmen/Pool via REUTERS
  • England faces the prospect of another national lockdown after the government's top scientist called for the strictest "Tier 4" lockdown measures to be rolled out across further parts of the nation.
  • The news comes amid warnings by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a new coronavirus strain spreading rapidly in London and the southeast could be up to 70% more transmissible than previous variants.
  • It appears increasingly likely that most, if not all, of England will be placed under the strictest restrictions — including stay-at-home orders — when the tier system is next reviewed on December 30.
  • Much of southeastern England has been under Tier 4 measures since the weekend.

Much of England could be placed under strict lockdown measures after the government's top scientist said a highly transmissible new strain of the coronavirus was already "everywhere" in England.

Much of London and the southeast of England on Saturday were placed under new "Tier 4" lockdown measures over the weekend in a bid to slow the spread of the new strain, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said is estimated to be up to 70% more transmissible than previous variants.

The Tier 4 restrictions represent the strictest rules in England since the first wave of lockdowns began in March, with stay-at-home orders in place and the closing of all shops considered nonessential.

Patrick Vallance, the UK's chief science advisor, on Monday suggested more Tier 4 lockdown measures across England were inevitable.

"The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it's more transmissible - we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place," Vallance said at a press conference alongside Johnson.


"I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country, and I think it's likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places in due course, not reduced."

The government reviews the current tier system every two weeks and is next scheduled to do so December 30. It appears increasingly likely that much of England will be placed under the strictest measures at that time.

Johnson on Monday also refused to rule out school closings in January, instead saying the government would implement a staggered return to classes in January "if we possibly can."

John Edmunds, a professor who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which advises the UK government on its coronavirus response, also said further measures would be necessary because the new variant of the virus was already spreading across the country.

"Unfortunately it does look like the virus is probably across the country already," he told BBC Radio 4's "Today" program on Tuesday. "And so I do think we might, unfortunately, have to impose tougher restrictions across the country."


Johnson abruptly announced the new measures Saturday after scientists laid out "stark and terrifying" evidence that the new coronavirus strain was far more transmissible than previous variants, according to a Times of London report. The extent to which it is in fact more transmissible, if at all, has yet to be confirmed.

One government assessment suggested that the weekly case count in the UK could rise to 700,000 by February, according to the Times report, more than three times current weekly figures.

As of Monday the seven-day total of known new cases was 203,845, according to official figures, an increase of 54.8% from the previous week. The number of recorded COVID-19 deaths also rose by 215 on Monday, bringing the total number in the past seven days to 3,215.

Wales has already introduced Tier 4 measures across the country, and Scotland plans to introduce similar measures on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.