Covid news - live: England bans travel from South Africa over new strain, as tier 4 expands

Conrad Duncan and Vincent Wood
·1-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Millions more people will be put into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day due to fears of rising coronavirus infection rates across the country over the Christmas period.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday that areas of the south and east of England, including Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, would move to the toughest level of restrictions, while many other parts of the country will move up to higher tiers.

Mr Hancock also revealed that a second new variant of coronavirus, which was first discovered in South Africa, had been detected in the UK - prompting the government to introduce a ban on travellers from the country.

It follows the first new variant to be discovered, which has been spreading rapidly from south east England. The first confirmed case to have reached Northern Ireland was announced on Wednesday evening.

It came as a leading medical scientist said regulators could approve the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the UK shortly after Christmas.

Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University's regius professor of medicine, said he was not concerned about how long it was taking to get approval and argued that the data from the vaccine’s trials looked “better than ever”.