Health Minister Matt Hancock has warned that the new strain of COVID-19 is out of control and people should act as if they already have the virus, especially in new Level 4 areas in England.

He said everyone was looking forward to Christmas, but that the new mutant strain “got out of control” and the government acted “quickly and decisively.”

The five-day Christmas bubble period has been reduced to Christmas Day only in England, Wales and Scotland – and abolished entirely for areas in England under the new Tier 4 rules – but it is still in Northern Ireland.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the new virus is ‘out of control’

“Everyone, especially people in Tier 4 areas, needs to act as if they have the virus – that’s the only way we’ll get it under control,” Hancock told Sophie Ridge in Sky on Sunday.

He said that the country faces a “tremendous challenge” in controlling the new strain of COVID-19 and that it is “more important than ever” for people to adhere to the rules and reduce social contact “because this is a very dangerous matter.”

“This is a fatal disease, we need to keep it under control, and it has become more difficult because of this new alternative.”

He said that the scenes of people lining up at train stations rushing to leave London before the new measures come into effect this morning, “is totally irresponsible behavior.”

When asked why the Prime Minister announced the rules of relaxation at Christmas weeks ago, when there was an opportunity to backtrack on his promise, he said: “Because we understand, and I understand, how important Christmas is to people.”

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He said the ministers had no choice but to act after the new scientific evidence was presented Friday afternoon.