London faces highest-level COVID-19 restrictions

Coronavirus

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON — Britain’s health secretary says London and surrounding areas will be placed under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions starting Wednesday as infections rise rapidly in the capital.

Matt Hancock said Monday that a new variant of the virus may be to blame. He added that the government must take swift action after seeing “very sharp, exponential rises” in Greater London and nearby Kent and Essex. He said that in some areas, cases are doubling every seven days.

He told lawmakers that the surge of COVID-19 cases in southern England may be associated with a new variant of coronavirus. He didn’t provide details about the virus variant, but stressed there was nothing to suggest it was more likely to cause serious disease, or that it wouldn’t respond to a vaccine.

“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. “And numbers are increasing rapidly.”

Hancock said officials are assessing the new strand of the virus, and that the World Health Organization has been notified.

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