NO CHRISTMAS: Boris Johnson Bans Festive Gatherings, Imposes Severe Tier 4 Lockdown On London, Others

Households in London and south-east England are to be banned from mixing over the festive period, while in the rest of the country, three households will be able to meet indoors on Christmas Day only, Boris Johnson has announced.

Giving an update from Downing Street, the prime minister also said London and the south-east will move into a tier 4 from midnight, with lockdown restrictions coming into force.

Speaking alongside Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, Boris Johnson said the tightening of the restrictions is linked to the spread of a mutant variant of Covid-19 which scientists believe is spreading more quickly than the previous form.

This new variant is most prevalent in the south-east of England.

Scientists warn rising rates in the South East are likely linked to a new variant

Covid: What are the new Tier 4 rules for London and south-east England and what does it mean for Christmas?

Under the new tier 4 restrictions, a stay-at-home message will be put into law with exemptions for education, childcare and exercise.

All non-essential retail, indoor leisure, entertainment and beauty care (such as hairdressers and nail bars) will be forced to close. 

Indoor hospitality, such as pubs, restaurants and cafes are already shut in these areas as they are in tier 3.

The following areas will be under tier 4:

  • Kent
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Berkshire
  • Surrey (excluding Waverley)
  • The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
  • All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.
  • Bedford
  • Central Bedfordshire
  • Milton Keynes
  • Luton
  • Peterborough
  • Hertfordshire
  • Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring)

The new rules for tier 4 which come into force from midnight are:

  • People are advised not to enter tier 4 areas and residents in tier must not stay overnight away from home
  • Travelling abroad is banned
  • You should work from home. Where you cannot, you are still able to travel to work
  • Non-essential shops will be shut
  • Indoor leisure such as gyms and swimming pools will be shut
  • Indoor entertainment such as cinemas and bowling alleys will be shut
  • Beauty services, such as hairdressers and nail bars will be shut
  • One person can meet with one person from another household outdoors

Support bubbles and childcare bubbles are exempt from the rules, and people are allowed outdoors for unlimited exercise.

The rules will be in place for two weeks and then will be reviewed.

Mr Johnson said the "sacrifices" people are being asked to make around Christmas are "so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so that we can see them at future Christmases”.

Prof Whitty said anyone thinking of heading out of London and the south-east before the lockdown measures come into force should "unpack" their bags.

The introduction of tier 4 and severe restrictions around Christmas comes amid soaring coronavirus cases, particularly in London and south-east England where a new Covid variant has been identified.

On Saturday, a further 534 people died with 28 days of a coronavirus test while a further 27,052 people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the UK total since the start of the pandemic to more than two million cases.

This new variant is understood to be much more transmissible than the form of coronavirus we have been living with for months.

Mr Johnson said the new variant may be up to 70% more transmissible and could increase the R-value (the rate at which Covid spreads) by 0.4.

On Friday, it was announced that the R rate had risen to between 1.1 and 1.2 across the country, meaning on average, 10 people with Covid will pass it on to 11 or 12 others, meaning the rate of the illness will increase exponentially.

Speaking during the Downing Street update, Prof Whitty highlighted the speed at which the new Covid variant is increasing: "This new variant not only moves fast - but it is beating all the other variants," he said.

Speaking earlier on Saturday, a spokesperson for the prime minister said the weekly average case rate has increased by more than 66% compared to two weeks previously.

In London, this has almost doubled in the last week and the new variant accounts for 60% of all new infections in London. 

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