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Covid-19: Millions more people to enter tier 4 on Boxing Day

 People walking in Oxford

Millions more people in the east and south east of England are to enter tier 4 on Boxing Day, the health secretary has announced.

The areas entering tier four include Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, Matt Hancock said.

Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest, and the parts of Essex and Surrey not already in the toughest restrictions will also enter tier four.

Meanwhile, another "highly concerning" variant has been identified in the UK.

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

He said cases had been rising in some of the places close to where the current tier four restrictions are, such as East Anglia, which had seen a "significant number" of the new fast-spreading variant.

"It is therefore necessary to put more of the East and South East of England into Tier 4."

Mr Hancock also announced that other areas would move into higher tiers.

Areas moving to tier three are: 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.

Cornwall and Herefordshire will move into tier 2.

The health secretary also has announced two cases have been detected of another new strain of the coronavirus in the UK.

Both were contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks, he said.

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."

The health secretary said both cases and close contacts of the cases have been quarantined.

There are immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa and the government is telling those who have been in contact with anyone who has been in South Africa in the last fortnight that they must quarantine.

He added: "These measures are temporary while we investigate further this new strain which is shortly to be analysed at Porton Down."

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