UK's Johnson scraps Christmas mixing plans, announces new lockdown

UK's Johnson scraps Christmas mixing plans, announces new lockdown
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U.K. Prime Minister Boris JohnsonBoris JohnsonUK cracks down on travel as omicron concerns rise British minister warns against 'snogging under the mistletoe' this year The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron MORE imposed new restrictions on broad swaths of England just ahead of the holidays in the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Johnson imposed the toughest possible set of restrictions, known as “Tier 4,” in parts of London, the South East and the East of England, which are currently in Tier 3.

“Residents in those areas must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions set out in law. Non-essential retail, indoor gyms and leisure facilities, and personal care services must close. People must work from home if they can, but may travel to work if this is not possible, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors. People should not enter or leave tier 4 areas, and tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home. Individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space,” Johnson said.

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While similar restrictions were imposed in November, this round will not include a ban on communal worshiping.

The restrictions mean a “bubble policy,” which currently allows up to three households to meet, will be severely rolled back.

The announcement comes amid a spike in cases across the United Kingdom, with Johnson saying the restrictions are “necessary” to protect residents during the dangerous winter months.

“When the science changes, we must change our response,” he said. “When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense.”

“As your Prime Minister, I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me. Without action, the evidence suggests infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed and many thousands more would lose their lives.”

Johnson’s statement came after he was briefed by the nation’s medical officials, who warned that a new COVID-19 strain was rapidly tearing across England.

“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,” Chris Witty, the chief medical officer for England, said in a statement

“Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission.”

The stringent restrictions follow criticism of how 10 Downing Street has handled the coronavirus pandemic, with detractors saying it did not take the outbreak seriously enough. The U.K. has had over 2 million coronavirus cases, and over 67,000 people have died there so far. Johnson himself contracted the coronavirus and spent a couple of days in a hospital’s intensive care unit.