LONDON (AP) – Millions of people in the UK faced new coronavirus restrictions on Saturday, while Scotland and Northern Ireland demanded stricter measures to try to stop a new variant of the virus that is likely to spread faster.
Northern Ireland has been locked up for six weeks and in Wales restrictions that have been relaxed for Christmas Day have also been reintroduced.
The number of people below England’s highest limit – Tier 4 – increased by 6 million on Saturday to 24 million people in general, about 43% of the English population. The region included London and many of its surrounding areas.
No domestic mixing of households is allowed, and only essential travel is allowed. Gymnasiums, swimming pools, hairdressers and shops selling non-essential goods have been ordered to close, and pubs and restaurants can only pick up. Business groups believe that the restrictions could destroy their members economically.
Another 570 daily deaths from COVID-19 were reported, bringing Britain’s total death toll to 70 in 1955, the second worst death toll in Europe after Italy. Britain also reported more than 32,700 new cases of the disease on Christmas Day.
Fears over the new variant of the UK have sparked a week of border chaos. About 1,000 British soldiers spent Christmas Day clearing a huge backlog of trucks stranded in south-east England after France briefly closed its border with the United Kingdom and demanded coronavirus tests from all drivers.
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Saturday that more than 15,000 drivers had been tested and that the backlog at a test site at Manston Airport had been cleared by Sunday morning. Only 36 positive tests were reported, he said on Twitter.
“A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has worked tirelessly over the past few days to reduce the tremendous disruption caused by the sudden closure of the French border,” Shapps tweeted.
The first cases of the UK’s new variant have now been detected in France and Spain. A French man living in England arrived in France on December 19 and tested positive for the new variant on Friday, the French public health agency said. He has no symptoms and is isolated at his home in the central city of Tours.
Meanwhile, health authorities in the Madrid region have said they have confirmed the British variant in four people, all of whom are healthy. Regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero said the new strain had arrived when an infected person flew to Madrid airport.
In her annual Christmas speech, Queen Elizabeth II, who spent much of the year with her husband, Prince Philip, isolated at Windsor Castle, delivered a heartfelt message of hope in which he expressed the ‘untamed spirit’ of those who ‘wonderful’ to the challenges came, praised. of the pandemic.
The 94-year-old queen and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, set an example by not visiting family members as usual over Christmas.
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