UK widens areas under tightest anti-COVID-19 rules

British authorities are adding more areas under the strictest COVID-19 rules beginning Thursday as a new variant coronavirus is spreading fast.

About 80 percent of the population in England will be living under the toughest restrictions.

Infections caused by the new strain, which is more transmissible than the original one, were recorded mainly in Southeast England, including the capital, London.

The tightest restrictions were imposed in those areas, with nonessential shops closed and people told to stay home.

Nevertheless, more than 50,000 new daily infection cases were reported in Britain on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Deaths on Wednesday totaled 981, the highest figure since April.

The variant virus is not only spreading fast in London and its vicinity, but is now seen in central and northwestern parts of England.

At Wednesday's news briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked for people's understanding over the tough restrictions, citing the "sheer pace" at which the virus is spreading.

He said tougher countermeasures are needed.