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Boris Johnson Cancels Christmas: No Gathering, Shopping As Coronavirus Cases Rise

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new set of coronavirus-related restrictions Saturday affecting Christmas travel, gathering and shopping as cases continued to rise in the U.K.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Christmas gatherings and shopping must be canceled, according to the Associated Press. The U.K. government ordered non-essential shops in London and other parts of southern England to close.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot proceed with Christmas as planned,” Johnson said at a press conference, the AP reported. 

Johnson also canceled a previous plan that would’ve permitted people from up to three households to gather in a “bubble” for Christmas in London and other parts of southern England, the AP reported. British people in the affected areas will not be allowed to mix unless they are outside in certain public places.

“I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year, and how important it is for grandparents to see their grandchildren,” Johnson said, according to the AP. “But when the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense.”

Johnson made the announcement after he met with government officials on an emergency basis Saturday due to the potential emergence of a new strain in the country, according to NBC News. The U.K. informed the World Health Organization that the mutant strain of coronavirus could spread quicker than previous strains, chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said in a statement.

“As announced on Monday, the U.K. has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance,” Whitty said.

“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” Whitty added.

The U.K. has reported increasing coronavirus cases and deaths since mid-October, according to data compiled by The Financial Times.

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