” Since the pandemic began last year, the whole United Kingdom has been engaged in a great national effort to fight Covid.
And there is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work.
But we now have a new variant of the virus. It has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading.
Our scientists have confirmed this new variant is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible – that means you are much, much more likely to catch the virus and to pass it on.
As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic.
In England alone, the number of Covid patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week, to almost 27,000.
That number is 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April.
On 29 December, more than 80,000 people tested positive for Covid across the UK – a new record.
The number of deaths is up by 20 per cent over the last week and will sadly rise further. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones.
With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.
In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.
That means the Government is once again instructing you to
stay at home. “