Large parts of England will be placed under Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, the health secretary announced Wednesday amid rising coronavirus cases.

The new measures came as infections rose 57% across the country in the last week as a new variant of COVID-19 was discovered, Matt Hancock said.

The areas to come under the strictest tier with lockdown-like restrictions are Essex, Norfolk, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington will go into Tier 3, he said.

“The new variant makes everything much harder but we mustn’t give up now,” Hancock said.

After the discovery of a new variant, the British government has quickly changed its previous decision to relax gathering rules over the Christmas holiday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reduced the number of days people could meet over the festive period to only the Christmas Day.

More than 40 countries halted flights from the UK since last Saturday.

New variant from South Africa

Hancock said there are two cases of another new variant in the UK and both cases were contacts of cases who traveled from South Africa.

“We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for their science,” he said, adding that the UK is quarantining new cases and placing restrictions on travel from South Africa.

The number of new cases has been recorded over 30,000 for the past 3 days since the authorities revealed the new variant.

More than 68,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the UK.

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.