Boris Johnson has scrapped planned lockdown easing in London and much of south-east England over Christmas and moved the region into new “tier four” restrictions, saying a new, more contagious strain of the Chinese coronavirus is spreading there.
After England’s second national lockdown ended the country moved to a system of tiered regional lockdowns, with most of the population finding themselves in the third tier — entailing restrictions which are in some ways even more restrictive than previously.
The country had been looking forward to five days of limited respite from the curbs over Christmas, but this has now been snatched away, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson reducing the so-called Christmas window to one day — December 2th — at best, and removing it altogether in areas where the new virus strain has taken hold.
London, much of south-east England, and Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, and parts of Essex will now be moved into a new “tier four” lockdown even harsher than tier three, with stay-at-home orders and people banned from mixing indoors with anyone not from their own household throughout the festive period.
From Sunday 20 December, some areas in England will enter Tier 4: Stay At Home.
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— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) December 19, 2020
“I know how disappointing this will be, but we have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science,” Johnson told a press conference announcing the changes.
“When the science changes, we must change our response. When the virus changes its methods of attack we must change our method of defence and as your Prime Minister I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me,” he said.
Scotland and Wales, which have their own devolved governments, have also tightened their lockdown rules.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, of the Labour Party, has announced the entire country will go into lockdown from midnight, with Christmas easing reduced to a single day, as in non-tier four areas of England.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, of the left-separatist Scottish National Party (SNP), has closed Scotland’s borders with the rest of the United Kingdom, moved the entire mainland into the second-highest level of restrictions, and also reduced Christmas easing to a single day.
“I know how harsh it is, but this virus doesn’t care about anything apart from spreading as far and wide as possible,” she said, claiming that the new rules “make me want to cry”.
Northern Ireland is the only one of the British Home Nations which has not changed its Christmas plans — although this may change as the situation develops.
WATCH LIVE: An update on coronavirus (19 December 2020) https://t.co/zqVXIkifSd
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 19, 2020