Christmas has effectively been cancelled as new unprecedented Tier 4 restrictions are introduced in the South of England and the Christmas five-day grace period revoked across the country.
The news follows an emergency Cabinet meeting called this afternoon as the government discussed what action to take to combat a rise in infection rates and the introduction of a new strain of COVID-19.
Boris Johnson, holding a press conference this afternoon, announced that Tier 4 restrictions would see a full travel ban on non-essential journeys in addition to non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms closing from midnight this evening.
“We cannot continue with Christmas as planned”, Mr Johnson said as he addressed the nation.
Tier 4 now covers vast swathes of the South and South East of England, including London, Kent, Essex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and also Portsmouth.
Mr Johnson was joined by chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
The latest restrictions come after a new strain of COVID-19 was discovered which the prime minister says is 70% more transmissible.
On the new variant of the virus, Chris Whitty said: “This virus is taking off, it’s moving fast and it’s leading to a sharp increase in hospitalisations.”
The new Tier 4 restrictions include a full domestic and international travel ban; no entry to or from a Tier 4 area; no Christmas bubbles; no overnight stays outside your home.
Alongside the announcement of the new tier, Mr Johnson also revoked the five-day Christmas period which would have allowed families to see each other across the country.
Now, up to three households may see each other on Christmas Day alone with people being advised to keep it local.
The latest restrictions will last for two weeks and will be reviewed on 30 December.