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London placed on highest tier of Covid-19 curbs as infections rise

LONDON : The city of London will move into England's highest tier of Covid-19 restrictions, the government said on Monday, citing increased infection rates that may be partly linked to a new variant of the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said more than 1,000 cases of the new variant had been identified, mainly in south- eastern England.

Although there is currently nothing to suggest the new strain is likely to cause more serious disease or that it will not respond to a vaccine, Mr Hancock said it could be contributing to higher infection rates. Earlier this month, the government implemented a three-tiered system of curbs in England.

London - its nine million people and world-leading financial centre make it the engine of the economy - was initially left in the middle tier of restrictions.

The main difference between the top alert levels is that bars and restaurants, which can stay open under certain conditions in tier two, must close in tier three and can do only takeaway services.

There are also additional curbs on socialising in tier three, but workplaces and schools are told to remain open.

England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said there is no evidence that the clinical outcome is different for the new variant.

MUTATIONS

"There are many variants. It just happens that this one has quite a few more mutations than some of the other variants, so that is the reason why we've taken it particularly seriously," Professor Whitty said.

The World Health Organisation confirmed that Britain had reported the variant but said mutations were not uncommon, a view echoed by experts. - REUTERS

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