image captionVirtually all of the newspapers lead on the news that London and parts of south-east England will be placed into the toughest Covid restrictions on Wednesday amid a warning from ministers that a new strain of the virus may be driving a surge in infection rates. The Times quotes Health Secretary Matt Hancock as saying there was “not a moment to spare” as he put 11 million people into tier 3.
image caption“Mutant Covid” is the front-page headline on the Metro, which says the new variant of the virus has been linked to an “exponential” rise in infections in the South East.
image captionIn addition to the capital being “plunged into the toughest tier”, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will also move into tier 3, notes the Daily Telegraph, meaning pubs, restaurants and theatres must close. The paper says there are warnings the economic consequences will be “catastrophic”.
image captionThe government’s decision means more than 60% of England is to face winter under the toughest curbs, notes the Guardian. The paper quotes Mr Hancock as describing the situation as a “salutary warning for the whole country” following a week of uplifting news around the vaccine rollout.
image captionWith the virus surging in parts of the South East, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to rethink the easing of Covid rules over Christmas, reports the i. The paper notes that Mr Hancock refused to rule out cancelling the relaxation of measures during a Downing Street briefing.
image captionThe Daily Mail goes further in asking whether Christmas gatherings might now be in jeopardy. The paper says scientists fear the planned easing of rules for five days over the festive period could fuel the new Covid variant. It quotes a source as saying: “The Christmas rules might change”, though it notes that Downing Street has insisted there are no such plans in place.
image caption“New strain and more pain” is the Daily Mirror’s headline. But the paper also manages to squeeze some good news on its front page, noting that GPs began Covid vaccinations on Monday.
image captionThe Daily Express splashes on the “fears” over the new Covid strain. But its front page also features a photo of Boris Johnson in a phone conversation in the back of a car, noting that the prime minister said Brexit trade talks were “still difficult”.
image captionThe Daily Star focuses on news that thousands of school children in London have been sent home from schools amid rising infection levels. The paper says it comes after ministers had said schools were safe.