The United Kingdom has been reeling under a new strain of the Covid 19 virus for the past week.
Cases in the UK skyrocketed last week. . The new strain accounted for over 60% of new cases in London over the past week.
The new lineage, code-named as B.1.1.7 has been widely tracked in new cases in the UK. According to the preliminary genomic characterization, the UK variant B.1.1.7 has an unusually large number of genetic changes, particularly in the spike protein which is often responsible for how the virus interacts with a human cell.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday although there's "considerable uncertainty," the new strain "may be up to 70% more transmissible" than the original version of the disease.
More than 16 million Britons are now required to stay at home after a lockdown came into force Sunday in London and southeast England and the government scrapped plans to relax rules on socializing at Christmas.
Hotels, vacation rental properties, inns, pubs, restaurants cafes and bars in Tier 3 and 4 areas must close, though there are many exceptions. Takeout, drive-thru and delivery services can continue, for example.
Most of England is considered Tier 1, 2 and 3 — and residents in these tiers can still transit through airports in Tier 4 areas, including Heathrow, London City and Luton, which remain open and operational. Stansted and Gatwick, according to the Independent are in Tier 2 areas.
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the new strain of the coronavirus is "out of control" and suggested parts of England will be stuck in the new, highest tier of restrictions until a vaccine is rolled out.
"Cases have absolutely rocketed, so we've got a long way to go," Hancock told Sky News. "I think it will be very difficult to keep it under control until the vaccine has rolled out." People in the new Tier 4 areas "should behave as though they have it," he said.
U.K was one of the first countries to approve and administer the Pfizer vaccine. As of Saturday morning 350,000 people had been vaccinated, with the goal to reach 500,000 by the end of the weekend.
Canada, France, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Switzerland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Turkey, Israel, Argentina, Chile and Colombia have suspended travel from travel from the UK.
The Health Ministry of India has called a meeting today of its joint monitoring group on COVID-19 to discuss a mutant coronavirus that has spread rapidly in the UK, government sources have said. Several European nations have banned flights to and from Britain. No policy decision has been taken by India on any flight ban from the UK but the matter will be given a serious consideration. The WHO India representative Roderico H Ofrin, who is also a member of the monitoring group, is likely to participate in the meeting.