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Casinos in London have closed their doors once again, as the city is forced into lockdown by a surge of COVID-19 infections.

The casinos had only recently reopened following a month-long lockdown that ended on December 2. Previously, they had been operating under an 11 pm curfew, having reopened in August after the country’s initial March lockdown.

COVID-19 cases are soaring in London and the southeast, where health authorities have identified a new genetic variant of the coronavirus.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the mutated strain is not believed to be more dangerous than previous strains, and is highly unlikely to be resistant to vaccines. But he added that it “appears to be spreading more quickly” and may be responsible for the surge in infections in the region.

At the same time, Hancock announced that from December 16, London would be upgraded to tier 3, the highest level of coronavirus restrictions. This prohibits indoor mixing between people not of the same household. And it means pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues — like casinos and bingo halls — must close.

Surprisingly, bookmaking shops can remain open, provided restrictions are in place, including limits on customers, the removal of chairs and a ban on live sports broadcasts to stop gamblers congregating.

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