Watch: What is the new Covid variant?
The new variant of Sars-Cov-2 has already "spread around the country", the Government's chief scientific adviser has said, warning that more regions could be put under Tier 4 restrictions in the coming weeks.
"It's localised in some places but we know there are cases everywhere, so it's not as though we can stop this getting into other places, there's some there already," Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street press conference.
"The message has been very clear and, I think I want to reinforce it, is stay local. People shouldn't be travelling around the country at the moment... it's got to be taken incredibly seriously."
Sir Patrick added that the tiered system will be vital to help contain Covid-19, but as the new variant "spreads easily" it is likely that "measures are going to need to be increased in due course not reduced".
This is partly because he expects there to be an "inevitable" increase in cases over the coming weeks, as people mix at Christmas. "I think it is the case that this will spread more," he added.
Watch: In full - Boris Johnson gives coronavirus update
His comments come as the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group (Nervtag) told a Science Media Centre briefing on the new mutant variant that cases outside of Tier 4 in London and the south east of England "are increasing at similar rates" to those in affected areas.
Experts have also said the variant it has a "transmission advantage" over other strains of the virus, meaning it is likely to become the dominant variant in the UK and across the world.
However, World Health Organisation director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was "no evidence" the new strain was "more likely to cause severe disease or mortality".
Elsewhere, regional public health directors in Manchester and the West Midlands urged anyone who travelled from a Tier 4 area or Wales to self isolate upon their arrival and "assume" they have the new Covid-19 variant.
Follow the latest updates below.
⚠️Greater Manchester's Directors of Public Health are asking anyone who has travelled to the city-region from any Tier 4 area or Wales to self-isolate for at least ten days when they arrive ⚠️
Everyone should be taking extreme care ⚠️
Read more here 👉 https://t.co/Fdu4uT7Bvt
— Mayor Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) December 21, 2020
In light of the Tier 4 restrictions the next time the House meets the government will seek to extend remote participation to further proceedings in the chamber, including debates on legislation.@jacob_rees_mogg has written to the @CommonsProcCom setting out the approach. pic.twitter.com/nO5PPewiMN
— Leader of the House of Commons (@CommonsLeader) December 21, 2020
Britain finds itself isolated from Europe, not just because of the mutant strain but also because of the tortuous state of Brexit talks.
"Between Brexit and Covid, the nightmares of a country never more isolated," is one headline in Corriere della Sera newspaper. These are strange times for "the most global and globalised city one the planet," says the paper. "For the first time, Britons find themselves alone with each other."
The twin effects of Brexit and Covid have rendered the UK "a small island adrift in the Atlantic and that is not a nice sensation."
41 countries have now put bans or restrictions on #UK flights due to the new strain. #India and #Russia are the latest. It is vital that @PHE_uk reveals more details as soon as they’re able to so as to reassure other countries (and the U.K. public). @ThePCAgency
— Paul Charles (@PPaulCharles) December 21, 2020
A nurse holds an 11-day-old baby boy infected with Covid-19, at the intensive care unit of the Prof. Dr. Feriha Oz Emergency Hospital - AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
Lorries parked on the M20 near Folkestone, Kent, as part of Operation Stack after the Port of Dover was closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal suspended following the French government's announcement that it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
People wearing masks walk past people dining in plastic bubbles used for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic - Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Long queue of motorists who are entering Queensland from New South Wales through the border checkpoint. Queensland has closed its border to greater Sydney residents as a cluster of Covid-19 cases continues to increase. Queensland residents returning from Sydney have until 1am on Tuesday get home. - Regi Varghese/Getty Images
People under a Christmas light display on Carnaby Street in London - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Professor Calum Semple, of the govt's Sage committee, says the UK's mutant Covid variant is likely to become the 'dominant global strain'
— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) December 21, 2020
REUTERS/Matthew Childs - REUTERS/Matthew Childs
Steve Parsons/PA - Steve Parsons/PA
Steve Parsons/PA Wire - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Dans les prochaines heures, au niveau européen, nous allons mettre en place un protocole sanitaire solide pour que les flux depuis le Royaume-Uni puissent reprendre. Notre priorité : protéger nos ressortissants et nos concitoyens.
— Jean-Baptiste Djebbari (@Djebbari_JB) December 21, 2020
If you booked a train 🚂 or coach 🚍 journey for the 23rd - 27th travel window (after it was announced), I've made sure you’re entitled to a full refund. No-one should be left out of pocket for doing the right thing. Please speak to your operators to find out how to claim.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 21, 2020
— Repubblica (@repubblica) December 21, 2020
People tend to underestimate this problem, I think.
Travel bans may be useful sometimes (#sarscov2 has changed many people’s minds on this) but they also create an incentive for countries to keep the detection of a novel pathogen or variant hidden (or not to look for them). https://t.co/5GmCOTRNXQ
— Kai Kupferschmidt (@kakape) December 21, 2020
At midnight tonight, and for the next 72 hours, all flights from the UK will be prohibited from entering Canada. Passengers who arrived today are subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures. More on the actions we’re taking to protect you: https://t.co/UrsE5sTcJT
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 21, 2020
NB: @grantshapps says 80% of freight is unaccompanied and will continue as normal.
The 20% disruption: 6,000 lorries would have used Dover-Calais crossing today. 4,000 on ferries and 1,800 through the Eurotunnel. Out of 32,000 units that would have shipped overall.
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) December 21, 2020
Vehicles queue as medical personnel administer tests at a drive-through COVID-19 testing centre in Sydney - Reuters