U.K. imposes tougher restrictions on millions of people as Covid cases soar

A bus drives past a sign displaying the measures imposed by the government against the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the first day of a newly imposed lockdown, in London, Britain, November 5, 2020.

John Sibley | Reuters

LONDON — The U.K. government has introduced stricter coronavirus restrictions for millions of people as cases continue to rise.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that more regions would be placed into the toughest Tier 4 category.

The restrictions, which include a “stay at home” order, mean people must not leave their homes unless they have a reasonable excuse. Businesses including non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers must close.

The announcement comes shortly after the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the U.K. It is thought the vaccine will allow the U.K. to significantly ramp up its inoculation program.

Government data shows that infection rates have risen sharply across England in the last week, with significant pressure being placed on hospitals.

On Tuesday, 53,135 new Covid cases were recorded in the U.K., representing the highest single-day rise since mass testing commenced.

A new coronavirus variant found in the U.K. is reportedly more transmissible and has led to travel restrictions for people wanting to leave the country.

The new strain, referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 in the science community, could be as much as 70% more transmissible, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

U.S. health officials confirmed the first case of the new strain on Wednesday. Several other countries have also identified the variant strain in recent weeks.

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