It was Matt Hancock who brought more bad news today on two fronts. Firstly, a new variant of the SARSCoV2 virus has been identified from South Africa. This in itself is not unexpected, the virus will frequently undergo minor changes. The variant also seems to be more highly transmissible than the original and may also infect children more easily. Two cases of the South African variant have been found in the UK. Both people had recently travelled to South Africa and are now in quarantine, isolated at home. The Government have ordered anyone who has recently returned from South Africa to self-isolate immediately and arrange for tests to be done.
Secondly, in a move to contain the fist new variant which is rapidly spreading in the UK, the new tier 4 restrictions are extended from Saturday 26th December. The new areas include Sussex, Oxfordshire, The rest of Essex, Waverley in Surrey, Hampshire except the New Forest, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. The Tier 4 restrictions now include 24 million residents or 43% of the population.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, New Forest, Swindon and the Isle of Wight go to tier 3 together with Cheshire, Warrington and Northamptonshire . Cornwall and Herefordshire move to Tier 2 leaving the Scilly Isles as the only place still in Tier 1.
We all knew these changes were inevitable and that the Tier 3 rules were not going to be enough to contain it. Matt Hancock said today when it’s a case of “ When, Not If, we tighten the rules” we have learnt to act sooner and quickly. This principle must be remembered as I am sure more steps yet will be required in a tier 5.
May I remind you that apart from increased transmissibility and that infections in children are more common, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest the vaccines will not work, and that Covid antibodies formed as a result of infection will not be effective against the variants. Our way out of this remains the vaccine.
I understand 80 metric tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables have been flown from Frankfurt to Yorkshire. These are destined for Aldi, the CO-OP, Sainsburys and Tesco.
Tesco have today introduced some rationing to try and control panic buying. There is plenty of everything to go round if people shop sensibly.
After a day of tensions and drama the ports in Dover and the Channel tunnel have been frantically trying to reduce the lorry jams that brought grid lock to the area. Rapid flow tests are being done on lorry drivers with Army assistance. If tested negative they will be able to cross the Channel to complete their missions.
In an interesting move that I can see being replicated here the French have drafted a new law, that if passed, will ban the antivaccers from travelling on public transport. In another generous gesture the French Government are going to fast-track applications for naturalisation to immigrants who have actively contributed to the fight against Covid. The residency requirements will be lowered from 5 years to 2 years.
When you see today’s figures you will realise the Matt Hancock was very right not to delay today’s difficult decisions. There have been 744 deaths in the last 24 hours. This is a 61% increase from 7 days ago. The R rate for deaths is rising and is now 4.4 per 100k with a 19.5% rise in the last 7 days.
453,903 Covid tests have been done in the last 24 hours and 39,237 new cases found to be positive yesterday. This is a rise of 61% in 7 days and the R rate is now 319.6 per 100k
The total number of positive cases in the UK since the epidemic began now stands at 2,149,551.With the hospital situation becoming critical and mortuaries becoming full there were 2,004 new admissions on the 19th December, a rise of 15.6% in a week .There are 20,917 in hospital on 21st December and 1,529 are on a ventilator.
So far, the NHS have coped with over a quarter of a million cases of Covid 19. They are still relatively fighting fit for the next onslaught, though many are on their knees with fatigue. Give them a few days break where possible and look out for all the key staff keeping the UK still functioning.I suggest each and every one of us goes into quarantine now, only having social contact with family or support bubbles, try not to travel apart from work and essential journeys.
Remember the Basics of Hand Face and Space. Stay safe