Coronavirus latest news: Two cases of 'highly concerning' South Africa virus strain found in UK
Plans to limit the vaccine to one dose per patient
Almost half of the UK in Tier 4 as of Boxing Day
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Two cases of a "very worrying" new variant of coronavirus, first identified in South Africa, have been discovered in the UK, triggering strict new quarantine restrictions for people arriving from the Rainbow Nation.
The variant known as 501.V2 is, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, "even more transferable" than the stress that is wreaking havoc in the UK.
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The news came when he announced the expansion of Tier 4 orders to 24 million people - 43 percent of England's population.
When the number of daily deaths from the virus hit 744 - the highest number since April - and daily cases peaked at 39,237, Hancock said another six million people will face the toughest restrictions almost immediately.
The changes mean the vast majority of the Southeast will fall under the hardest tier.
Follow the latest updates below.
Current infections are rising worse than the first wave, says Sage member
Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the government's scientific advisory board, tweeted that the current surge in Covid infections is now worse than the first wave of the virus.
He said the latest 744 deaths reveal the extent of persistent infections, as improvements in treatments mean around a third more patients survive compared to the start of the year.
Sharon Osbourne returned home after a hospital stay
Sharon Osbourne is back home with rock star husband Ozzy after testing negative for Covid-19.
The former X-Factor judge, 68, announced earlier this month that she had been diagnosed with the virus and that she was isolating herself from 72-year-old Ozzy.
Now Osbourne said she had two negative test results and was "so grateful" to be home.
She posted a picture of a masked Ozzy sitting next to the couple's dogs.
Osbourne said: "I have the right to go home after two negative test results and see the joy that awaits me!"
"So grateful that you are home for the holidays and thank you all so much for your love and support. Stay safe and wish you the happiest holidays."
Singapore receives first new variety from Great Britain
Singapore has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus variant in the UK, the city-state said, while 11 others who were already in quarantine had tentatively returned positive results for the new strain.
All cases imported from Europe had been placed in a 14-day quarantine in special facilities or isolated on arrival, and their close contacts had previously been quarantined.
"There is currently no evidence that the B117 strain is floating in the community," the Singapore Ministry of Health said late Wednesday, referring to the new, potentially more infectious strain in the UK.
Singapore has performed viral genome sequencing for confirmed Covid-19 cases that recently arrived from Europe.
The strain was found among 31 cases from Europe who arrived in Singapore between November 17 and December 17 and had Covid-19 that month.
The patient with the new variant came to Singapore from the UK on December 6, was quarantined on arrival and tested positive on December 8. All of their close contacts were quarantined and tested negative at the end of their quarantine period.
The Ministry of Health said they managed to lock down the case so there was no further transmission.
A family walks through the departure lounge at Changi Airport in Singapore - EPA
Sydney residents said they should stay home for Christmas
Millions of Sydney residents have been asked to limit their mobility during the Christmas holidays. Some families have been locked down and celebratory gatherings have been limited to 10 indoors as officials try to contain a Covid-19 outbreak.
Australia's most populous city is practically isolated from the rest of the country as state borders are closed or arrival in Sydney is quarantined for 14 days.
"Please limit your mobility," Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday in Sydney. "Aside from those close family get-togethers that we allowed over the Christmas break, we don't want people to move unless you absolutely have to."
The neighboring state of Victoria advised residents on Thursday not to "hug or kiss" visitors who had been in Sydney in the past 10 days.
Christmas was cut short in Sydney this year - GETTY IMAGES
Today's top stories
The government is considering proposals to limit the number of people to just one dose of Covid Jab so more people can be vaccinated as soon as possible
Almost half of the country will be locked in Tier 4 as of Boxing Day, according to measures announced by Matt Hancock when he warned that another mutant strain of Covid has been found in the UK
Two cases of a "very worrying" new variant of coronavirus, first identified in South Africa, have been discovered in the UK, triggering strict new quarantine restrictions for people arriving from the Rainbow Nation
Oxford's new vaccine is one step closer to the green light as regulators now consider full data, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced
The staff shortage has left London's flagship Nightingale hospital empty with no equipment or 4,000 intensive care beds, despite Covid cases doubling in the capital
Fears about when schools might return mount after government scientists tell the "fundamental question" is how the new Covid mutation will affect children
Angry truck drivers stranded in the UK by France's travel ban clashed with police on Wednesday as they sparked their frustration over delays in testing and returning home for Christmas
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