Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a press conference today (December 19) following a Cabinet meeting this afternoon to discuss a new variant of coronavirus associated with the faster spread in the South East of England.
Scientists have warned the new strain spreading rapidly throughout London and Kent is 50% more contagious than any previously detected.
The PM is expected to address the nation at 4pm and it is possible a curb on travel will be imposed on Kent and London. There is also a suggestion of ‘Tier 4’ restrictions being introduced which could mean a U-turn on Christmas ‘bubbles’ for the South East.
Ahead of the conference, Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty said: “As announced on Monday, the UK has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance.
“As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.
“We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.
“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this.
“Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission.”
On Monday Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the new variant of coronavirus had been identified with over 1,000 cases with the variant identified, predominantly in the South of England.