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Matt Hancock has revealed that the government believes the newly discovered and more infectious strain of Covid-19 is now "out of control".
And in a startling pre-Christmas Covid warning the day after Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for millions, the health secretary said everyone waking up in the new Tier 4 areas this morning "should act like they have" this new strain.
Mr Hancock, speaking on Sunday morning, told Sky News said it was vital for people to reduce social contact in order to manage the spread of the disease.
And he went on to blast Londoners who had left train stations rammed on Saturday night in a rush to get out of the capital before new lockdown rules came into effect.
Mr Hancock also admitted the country faces an "enormous challenge" controlling the new strain of Covid-19 after scientists found it was able to spread more rapidly.
He suggested additional restrictions for England announced by the Prime Minister on Saturday may have to remain for "the next couple of months" while a vaccine is rolled out.
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"What is really important is that people not only follow them (the new rules) but everybody in a Tier 4 area acts as if you have the virus to stop spreading it to other people," he told Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
"We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present.
"All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant. That is the fundamental problem.
"We know that because we know that in November that in the areas where this new variant started, in Kent, the cases carried on rising whereas in the rest of the country the November lockdown worked very effectively.
"It is an enormous challenge, until we can get the vaccine rolled out to protect people. This is what we face over the next couple of months."
- Boris Johnson
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