BRITS living in all four tiers have been urged to "stay local" this Christmas – as Boris Johnson cancelled celebrations for 17million people.
The Prime Minister today revealed tougher measures are needed to combat a rogue new strain of Covid – known as VUI202012/01 – which is 70 per cent more contagious.
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As a result, people living across swathes of London and the south-east, as well as Wales, are heading into Tier 4 lockdowns which mean they can't mix with other households or travel unless essential.
But people living across the UK have been warned to stay at home where possible in the coming weeks – including throughout the festive season – in a bid to fight the mutant strain.
It comes as…
- Boris Johnson today cancelled Christmas for millions as he put London, the South East and East in Tier 4 lockdown
- The new variant strain of the virus which causes Covid-19 may be up to 70% more transmissible
- All Brits have been told to stay local during the festive season
- Christmas bubbles in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 have been cut to just 24 hours on December 25
- Non-essential shops and gyms in Tier 4 areas must be closed from midnight
- Those in Tier 4 will be able to meet only one other person outdoors – but must not stay overnight from home
- Wales will go into lockdown from tonight – but people can bubble for Christmas day only
Mr Johnson said this afternoon that the strain is already spreading through the country.
"Although the new variant is concentrated in Tier 4 areas, it is nonetheless present at lower levels around the country," he said.
"We are asking everyone, in all tiers, to stay local.
"People should carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad and follow the rules in their tier."
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said that danger was that people moving around the country would "seed" the variant.
He acknowledged: "This is a bad moment."
The rules are stricter for people in Tier 4, who are not allowed to travel abroad apart from for work.
Cases in the UK are surging, with the weekly average rate up 66 per cent in just two weeks.
In London, the number of positive tests has doubled – and 60 per cent of those are the new strain.
New Tier 4 areas include 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 and Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring) are also facing the toughest restrictions from midnight.
People in other tiers will be advised not to go into the highest bracket areas, while residents of Tier 4 must not stay overnight in lower infection spots.
The rules will apply for at least two weeks, with the situation due to be considered at the next review point on December 30.
This evening, Mark Drakeford has announced Wales will fall under the same measures, which will begin at midnight – and warned people are now facing "a pandemic within a pandemic, a crisis within a crisis".
Nicola Sturgeon reiterated at her own press conference tonight that advice against cross-border travel remains, and the law will be changed to cut bubbles to one day.
And Mr Johnson said: "As Prime Minister, it is my duty to take the difficult decisions, to do what is right to protect the people of this country.
"Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned."
In England, those in Tier 4 areas must stay at home – which means many will face Christmas alone.
Support bubbles will remain in place for those at particular risk of loneliness or isolation.
Across the rest of the country, the Christmas rules allowing up to three households to meet will now be limited to Christmas Day only.
Just days ago, the PM said it would be "frankly inhuman" to cancel Christmas – and said he was standing by plans to offer Brits five days of mixing.
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