Tier 4 also means that households will not be allowed to mix over Christmas.
Fears around London’s fast-rising coronavirus transmission rate have prompted a new and unheralded step this morning, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced at a Saturday afternoon press conference that London will move to Tier 4 of coronavirus restrictions tomorrow morning (Sunday, December 20). Tier 4 is a brand new addition to the UK’s previous three-tiered system, and features even more restrictive measures in order to keep the population safe.
What does Tier 4 mean?
London, the South East, and the East of England are the areas which will enter Tier 4 tomorrow morning – details are just emerging, but here are the key points we need to know:
- Residents must stay at home whenever they can, and work from home wherever possible.
- We should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas.
- Support bubbles will be unaffected, as will the rules for separated parents and children.
- Non-essential retail shops and indoor gyms must close.
- Communal worship may be allowed to continue.
These measures will last for two weeks, and will be reviewed by the government on December 30. Metro is reporting that Londoners who try to leave the city after midnight tonight could face arrest, amidst fears of the virus variant spreading across the country.
Why have we moved to Tier 4?
It’s thought to have been driven by the recent discovery of a mutant strain of Covid-19, which is thought to be behind the rapid rise in cases around the capital. As Johnson noted in his press conference, “it may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant”, and England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, noted that the variant has led the new Tier 4 areas to see higher rates of hospitalisation.
What about Christmas?
There was further bad news for Christmas gatherings, as Johnson stated that “we cannot continue with Christmas as planned” – just three days after previously confirming that they would. In Tier 4, the rules around staying home and entering/leaving Tier 4 areas mean that households should not mix over Christmas. And whilst Tier 4 areas will see a change to the Christmas bubble rules, they won’t be the only area facing a drastically different Christmas.
For the rest of England, the previous exemptions which would have allowed three households to meet from December 23-27 have been changed, with gatherings now limited to one day: December 25. So, if you’re in planning to see family over the holidays, Christmas Day will be your only chance to mix indoors as three households. Johnson also told English residents to “stay local” for Christmas, and when pressed about the sudden change to the Christmas rules, said that “when the virus changes its method of attack, we have to change our method of defence”.
The rules for Christmas in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are subject to the measures outlined by the respective devolved governments. The Welsh government has just announced that the nation will enter lockdown from midnight tonight, and Christmas gatherings are cancelled for all except Christmas Day.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated throughout the afternoon.
Also published on Medium.