Christmas has been effectively cancelled for those living in London and the southeast of England after a new, more infectious strain of coronavirus has spread throughout the region.
The capital and southeast England will enter a new ‘Tier 4’ from tomorrow morning, that will see households locked down and non-essential retail closed, mimicking the rules of England’s first, and longest lockdown.
Tier 4 residents have been told they must not mix with anyone outside of their household during Christmas, inevitably changing holiday plans for thousands of families.
The tier system will come under review on 30 December.
Johnson said the new strain on the virus could increase the R rate by 0.4, and could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon the PM said: “I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year and how important it is for grandparents to see grandchildren, so I know how disappointing this will be.
“We’ve said throughout this pandemic we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes we must change our response. As your Prime Minister, I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.”
Without action, Johnson said hospitals would be overwhelmed and many thousands more to lose their lives.
There were 27,052 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the last 24 hours, with 534 new deaths in the last 24 hour reporting period from those who had tested positive for coronavirus in the last 28 days.
Those living in other parts of the country will be restricted to bubbles of just two households during Christmas, with official guidance to stay in their local area.
Christmas mixing will also be limited to just Christmas Day.
Earlier today England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty confirmed the virulence of the new strain of coronavirus, confirming it was spreading faster than previous strains.
The last week has seen a major spike in Covid cases. The number of people positive in the capital alone is thought to be about 125,000.
Analysis suggests the R number — which represents how many people each infected person passes the virus on to — has risen above one in the UK.
Johnson has refused to rule out a third national lockdown for England after Christmas, warning that infection rates have increased “very much” over the last few weeks.