A new strain of Sars-Cov-2, which is believed to have originated in South Africa, has been detected in the UK, the health secretary has confirmed.
Authorities are learning about its properties, however, initial evidence suggests that the new strain is more transmissible.
In response, the Government has implemented restrictions on travel from South Africa and is calling for travellers, including their close contacts, who have arrived in the UK in the last two weeks to immediately quarantine.
It comes as the Health Secretary announced a raft of new restrictions. From one minute past midnight on Boxing Day, more regions of England will join London and much of the south-east in Tier four.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridge, the whole of Essex, Waverley in Surrey, and Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton will all be escalated to the highest Tier, he said.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, including the North Somerset council-area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to Tier three.
While Cornwall and Herefordshire will be bumped up to Tier two.
“This is not news that anybody wants to deliver and I’m truly sorry for the disruption that it causes,” the health secretary said.
“But I think people know how important it is that we take decisions like this to keep people safe.”