LONDON – Millions of people in the UK woke up to authorities in France and other European countries on Saturday, the day after Christmas, after a strict coronovirus ban reported their first cases of a mutated, possibly more contagious strain.
The Swaths of England were placed under the toughest set of lockdown rules, known as “Tier 4”, which would result in the closure of gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and most shops. People will also be restricted to meet just one person from another house in an outdoor public place.
The UK capital, London, has been living under “Tier 4” regulations since last week, while the number of lower, less restrictive levels in other parts of the country ranged from one to three.
From Saturday, the number of people living in “Tier 4” in England will increase by 6 million to 24 million people, or just over 40 percent of the population.
Scotland, which has its own tier system, switched to sanctions on most of the mainland level for three weeks from Saturday, while the tightening of six weeks, including a partial evening curfew, began in Northern Ireland. Wales remains under national lockout.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the total number of deaths from Kovid-19 in the UK exceeded 70,000 on Christmas day, with more than 2 million cases reported.
Queen Elizabeth II implemented the rules 24 hours after delivering her message of hope in her annual TV address to the nation.
“Certainly for many people, this time of year will be full of sadness; some mourn the loss of those they love, and others mourn the missing friends and family members for safety, when they all leave for Christmas. Really want a simple hug or with a squeeze hand, “said the 94-year-old emperor.
She said she grew “proud and ahead” of the country’s “quiet indomitable spirit”.
Across the English Channel, French health officials confirmed the country’s first case of a mutated virus version that prompted strict lockdown measures in Britain.
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The French Public Health Agency said in a statement that a French man arrived in London from France on 19 December and tested positive for the new version.
The statement said he had no symptoms and was isolated in his home in the central city of Tours. Saying that the authorities were tracing their contacts and the laboratories were analyzing the tests of several others who might have a new version.
New tensions have also been detected in Sweden, Japan, Ireland and Spain, health officials in those countries said. Whereas it was found as far afield as Denmark, Iceland and Australia earlier last week.
Elsewhere in Europe, Russia, the number of coronovirus cases on Saturday crossed the 3 million mark for the first time.
In Germany, the infection was rising as it jumped from 14,455 to 1,627,103 cases on Saturday, data from the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) showed.
Nations in the European Union, including France, Germany and Italy, will begin mass vaccination from Sunday, administering the first shots of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, as the epidemic continues to grow across the continent.
Reuters contributed to this report.