UK PM Boris Johnson announced Saturday that parts of the country will return to lockdown after a new strain of the coronavirus was detected.
Johnson said London and parts of southeastern UK would see stricter restrictions after it appeared the country was headed for an easing of measures ahead of the Christmas holiday.
"The spread is being driven by the new variant of the virus...It appears to spread more easily and may be up to 70% more transmissible than the earlier strain," Johnson said during a press conference today.
England's chief medical officer warned that the new strain "can spread more quickly."
"This is now spreading very fast," he said. "It is with a very heavy heart that I say we cannot continue with Christmas as planned," stating "urgent work" was underway to determine if the new virus mutation is capable of causing more deaths than previous strains.
While a government committee claimed a new strain was the real culprit, some experts believe the main reason for the spread could be a "super-spreader event."
Johnson said there was a lack of overwhelming evidence that the current strain was more deadly than previous ones, but noted that there were increased indications it was increasing the infection rate.
The UK announced 27,052 new COVID-19 infections along with 534 virus-related fatalities over the past 24 hours. The positive infection rate is currently between 1.1% and 1.2%.