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Matt Hancock announces new areas of England moved into Tier 4 as stricter covid measures introduced

Millions more people living in the east and south east of England will enter the toughest Tier 4 lockdown on Boxing Day, Matt Hancock has announced.
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illions more people living in the east and south east of England will enter the toughest Tier 4 lockdown on Boxing Day, Matt Hancock has announced.

The Health Secretary revealed the stricter measures for an additional six million people on Wednesday at a Downing Street press conference as he said Covid-19 was “spreading at a dangerous rate”.

Areas to enter Tier 4 include  Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex currently not covered and Waverley in Surrey.Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest, will also be moved into Tier 4.

It means a total of 24 million people - 43 per cent of the population of England- will be in Tier 4 from December 26.

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Mr Hancock also revealed that another new highly-transmittable coronavirus variant from South Africa has been detected in the UK.

The health secretary said two cases have been detected and were contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.

He said: "This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK."

It comes as the latest daily government figures showed a record 39,237 people in the UK tested positive for virus in the past 24 hours, and there were 744 deaths.

<p>The death toll has soared</p><p>The death toll has soared</p>
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The death toll has soared

/ AFP via Getty Images )

The figure is the highest number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test during the second wave of the virus.

Mr Hancock said: “This Christmas and the start of 2021 is going to be tough. The new variant makes everything much harder because it spreads so much faster.

“But we mustn’t give up now, we know that we can control this virus, we know we can get through this together, we’re going to get through it by suppressing the virus until a vaccine can make us safe.”

He added: “I believe that everybody will do what is needed to keep themselves and others safe, especially this Christmas, and I know from the bottom of my heart that there are brighter skies ahead.”

The health secretary told the Downing Street briefing the old tiering system was not enough to control the new variant of the virus.

Mr Hancock also outlined areas of England moving up to higher tiers.

He added: “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 3.

“And I’m afraid that Cornwall and Herefordshire have seen sharply rising rates and need to be escalated to Tier 2.”

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Mr Hancock also revealed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has now submitted full data to the regulator for approval.

He said: "Amid all this difficulty, the great hope for 2021 is of course the vaccine.

"The vaccine is our route out of all this and however tough this Christmas and this winter is going to be, we know that the transforming force of science is helping to find a way through.

"I'm delighted to be able to tell you that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine developed here in the UK has submitted its full data package to the MHRA for approval.

"This is the next step towards a decision on the deployment of the vaccine which is already being manufactured, including here in the UK."

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