English regions should go into Covid tier 4 now, scientists say

Highly transmissible variant will be much harder to deal with if tighter rules don’t start till Boxing Day, ministers are told

The highest Covid death toll since April and the discovery of a second new variant of the virus led to stark warnings that ministers are acting too slowly by waiting until Boxing Day to put 6 million more people into the toughest restrictions.

A swathe of England will be placed under lockdown-like tier 4 curbs from Saturday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced as the UK recorded 744 deaths – the highest since late April – and 39,237 cases.

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