Londoners have woken up in tier three for the first time – meaning 34 million people across the country are now living under the harshest tier of Covid restrictions.
New rules have been imposed on all of the capital’s 32 boroughs – and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire – due to a spike in infections, in part cause by a mutant strain of coronavirus spreading rapidly.
The restrictions came into place at 00.01, meaning people had one last night to go to a pub or restaurant before they were forced to shut yet again.
Tier three rules also mean the closure of indoor entertainment venues including cinemas and theatres while fans have been banned from sporting venues. People are only allowed to meet up with others they don’t live with in public open spaces, in groups of no more than six.
Matt Hancock plunged the capital into tier three on Monday – two days before a planned review of the system – because ‘exponential rises’ in infection rates meant action was ‘urgently needed.’
He said: ‘Over the last week we have seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.
‘We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out.’
The latest figures show rates are rising in all 32 boroughs of London with the biggest jump in Havering – up from 348.3 to 540.9 per 100,000.
This is also the highest rate anywhere in London, and the fourth highest in the whole of England.
Westminster has the lowest rate at 131.6, up from 91.5. A total of 15 of the top 50 highest rates in England are currently in London.
Much of the North East, North West and midlands are already in tier three and are awaiting news of whether any areas will be moved down as the rules are reviewed later.
Experts have warned the Government to be cautious with relaxing rules just before Christmas – particularly as it’s already expected that households mixing in bubbles over Christmas will lead to a spike in infections.
Several other parts of the country could also join tier three during the first review of the rules since they were introduced when the country came out of lockdown two weeks ago.
More than two-thirds of local authority areas across England are seeing a rise in Covid-19 case rates – up from a third a week ago.
Hastings in Sussex – currently in tier two – has seen one of the biggest rises in the last week – up from 153.2 to 396.1 per 100,000. Gloucester could also end up in tier three as its rate is up from 159.5 to 222.3.
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