“Over the past few days, thanks to world-class genetic potential in the UK, we have identified a new variant of the corona virus that may be associated with the rapid spread in the southeastern UK,” Hancock told parliament.
More than 1,000 cases have been identified with this variation, mainly in the south of the UK, he said, adding that “numbers are growing rapidly”.
He said similar types had been identified in other countries in recent months and that the UK had reported the new variant to the World Health Organization as expert analysis continued.
“I’m not currently emphasizing that this variant is more likely to cause serious illness, and the latest medical advice is that this mutation is very unlikely to fail to respond to a vaccine,” Hancock added.
“It shows that we need to be vigilant and follow the rules, and that everyone must take personal responsibility to prevent the spread of this virus,” he said.
Hancock said London’s Level 2 “high alert” would be moved from local restrictions to “high” Level 3 at 12:00 on Wednesday morning, with London adjacent to south and west Essex and south Hertfordshire.
Under the highest level of control, all hospitality venues, including pubs, cafes and restaurants, will be closed except for takeout and delivery.
Residents are already unable to meet people from other homes inside the home and are now unable to meet in private gardens or most outdoor areas. They can meet up to six people outside of parks, public gardens or sports facilities. Retailers can be open.
People should avoid traveling outside their area and reduce the number of trips they make as much as possible.
“The last three weeks have seen a sharp rise in the virus in parts of London, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire,” the health secretary said.
“We do not know to what extent this is due to the new variant, but whatever the cause, we need to take immediate and decisive action, which, unfortunately, is absolutely necessary to control this deadly disease when vaccines are out,” Hancock added.
In some areas, it is now time to double every seven days, and rates are rising not only among school students, but “for all ages, including those over 60,” he said.
Hospitals in London, Essex and Kent are already under pressure and will quickly “sink” without action, he said.
Hancock said it was important to take initial steps that were “not necessary, but effective” to prevent long-term damage, and that social trials would be extended.
“I know the steps are tough, but we should not be shaken when entering the final extension so that when we look back at this crisis time we can all say that we all did our part,” he added.
London connects much of northern and central England, including Kent in the southeast and Bristol in Tier 3 in the southwest.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the decision was “incredibly disappointing for businesses that have already suffered so much”, but that “it is clear that the virus is accelerating” and that lives are in danger.
“It is such a tragedy to lose more and more people with this disease when the vaccine is now being produced all over our city,” he said.
“We know from bitter experience that when cases start to rise quickly, it is best to act early, without delay. This is to avoid strict restraints, for a long time, and to get off the road.”
This growing story has been updated with additional reporting.
“Devoted bacon guru. Award-winning explorer. Internet junkie. Web lover.”