The UK government has announced that millions in England will be placed under stay-at-home orders from New Year’s Eve in order to help curb the coronavirus outbreak.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced this afternoon (December 30) that 75% of England – including all of the North East, Greater Manchester, large parts of the Midlands and the South West – will be moving into Tier 4 from Thursday morning (December 31).
The stay-at-home restrictions mean that non-essential shops will be closed and a strict one-to-one outdoor meeting limit between households will be implemented.
Areas moving into Tier 4 include all of the Midlands except Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Rutland, which will all be in Tier 3. In the North West, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen, Cheshire, Warrington and Cumbria will be in Tier 4, while Liverpool will be moved up to Tier 3.
In the South West, Gloucestershire, Swindon, Somerset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will be in Tier 4, while the remainder of the region – including Cornwall, Devon and Dorset – will be moved up to Tier 3. The Isles of Scilly (Tier 1) will be the only part of England not in Tiers 3 or 4.
The new restrictions come after the new variant of coronavirus has contributed to a record rise in infections across the country.
The infection rate in England rose by a third in the week leading up to Christmas Eve, while the number of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital rose by 8% the week before – to 14,915 people.
On Tuesday (December 29), cases reached a record high, with 53,135 reported in the UK, including 47,164 in England.
The coronavirus variant discovered earlier this month has now accounted for a majority of all new cases in London, the South East and East of England, Hancock said.
He explained that it was “a day of mixed emotions” due to the announcement of the new restrictions just hours after the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the UK’s medical regulator.
“It brings forward the day on which we can lift the restrictions that no one in this house wants to see any longer than are absolutely necessary,” he told MPs. “But we must act to suppress the virus now, not least because the new variant makes the time between now and then even more difficult.
“And so whilst we have the good news of the vaccine today, we also have to take some difficult decisions.”
He added that while he knew the measures would place a significant burden on businesses and livelihoods, it was “absolutely necessary because of the number of cases that we have seen”.
“We cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” he said, introducing Tier 4 restriction as he addressed the nation on December 19.