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Boris Johnson is to hold a press conference at 16:00 GMT as Covid cases rise across south-east England.

Before that, the prime minister is hosting a cabinet meeting to discuss what action to take to deal with the spread of a new variant of Covid.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said there was "significant concern" and extra restrictions could be coming.

Chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said government advisers "consider the new strain can spread more quickly".

He will join the prime minister and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, at the press conference.

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that she would also chair a meeting with the Scottish cabinet this afternoon after earlier having a call with the other UK nations about coronavirus.

She added: "Cases currently at lower level in Scotland than UK – but preventative action may be necessary to stop faster spreading strain taking hold."

Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced post-Christmas lockdowns.

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Following concern about the rapid spread of a new variant, Prof Whitty said: "We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.

"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.

"Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on the prime minister to set out "what action he will be taking" as the virus was "out of control in parts of the country".

Jeremy Hunt, a former health secretary, said the government needed "to respond to what is happening on the ground" with hospital admissions rising.

Hospitals in Kent are postponing non-urgent procedures as coronavirus cases in the county rise beyond figures seen in the spring.

Meanwhile, millions more people in southern England are now living under the toughest Covid restrictions.