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'Increasingly rapidly' New Covid-19 strain blamed for 'faster spread' of virus as London increases restrictions

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(Stock image)

(Stock image)

(Stock image)

A new strain of coronavirus has been identified in southern England as tougher restrictions were imposed in London.

The British capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will face Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday following “very sharp, exponential rises” in cases.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the number of cases involving the new variant was “increasing rapidly”.

Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants, he said.

“We’ve currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the south of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas," he said in the House of Commons.

The Health Secretary said there was nothing to suggest the variant was more likely to cause serious disease and he suggested the vaccine should still be effective.

“But it shows we’ve got to be vigilant and follow the rules and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus,” he said.

Mr Hancock said it was necessary to move London from Tier 2 to Tier 3 to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.

“Over the last week we have seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire,” he said.

“We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out.

“In some parts of these areas the doubling time is around every seven days.”

Hospitals across the capital, Essex and Kent were already “under pressure”, he warned.

“We know that this doubling of cases will be mirrored in hospital admissions and it only takes a few doublings for the NHS to be overwhelmed.”

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