Addressing the nation this afternoon (December 19), Johnson was joined by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
The prime minister said the spread of the virus in many parts of South East England is now “being driven by the new variant of the virus”.
He added that there was no evidence that it causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but he did say it “may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant”, adding that it’s early data and subject to review.
The new Tier 4 restrictions will affect London, the South East and East of England. They will come into force on Sunday morning (December 20) and last for two weeks and will be reviewed on December 30.
The restrictions will be fairly similar to the national restrictions which were introduced in England back in November. Non-essential shops and hospitality businesses will have to close for a month, as will indoor gyms and hair salons.
WATCH LIVE: An update on coronavirus (19 December 2020) https://t.co/zqVXIkifSd
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 19, 2020
Residents in the affected areas must stay at home, with limited exemptions. People should work from home when they can, and should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas. Communal worship may continue.
Turning his attention to Christmas, Johnson said during his address: “We cannot continue with Christmas as planned.”
Last month, the prime minister announced relaxed restrictions for the festive season that will allow families to celebrate together. However, new rules have now been introduced that affects all tiers.
For those in Tiers 1-3, rules that allowed up to three households to meet over the festive period will now be limited to Christmas Day only.
Christmas bubbles for those in Tiers 1-3 will not be able include anyone in the newly introduced Tier 4.
People should not to travel into a Tier 4 area, though support bubbles remain unaffected as do the exemptions for separated parents and their children.
In Tier 4, people should not mix with anyone outside their own household, apart from support bubbles.
The new restrictions come after London was placed in the third and highest tier of England’s coronavirus restrictions earlier this week amid a surge in cases of the virus.