Boris Johnson discusses chances of lockdown after Christmas
Millions of people in England have woken up to harsher Tier 3 restrictions this morning after the first review of the rules took place earlier this week. Swathes of the south of England were plunged into the strictest tier amid rising coronavirus cases – meaning 68 percent of the population are now under the toughest restrictions. The rules change comes after the R-value is estimated to have risen to between 1.1 and 1.2 from 0.9 last week.
The restrictions have come in less than a week before the starts of the UK’s Christmas bubbles plan, which was agreed by the four devolved nationals and will see people able to meet with up to two other households indoors between December 23 and 27.
The tier review also came after documents released by the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said avoiding social contacts for more than five days before Christmas could reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
Isolating for more than a week would reduce the risk even further, the report said.
Boris Johnson warned people to be wary prior to travelling for Christmas, saying: “If you are forming a Christmas Bubble, it’s vital that from today, you minimise contact with people from outside your household.
“Everyone must take personal responsibility to avoid passing the virus on to loved ones.”
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Speaking earlier this week, he said Christmas rules were “very much a maximum” and “not a target people should aim for”.
Mr Johnson also encouraged people to “think about our elderly relatives” to “avoid spreading the disease” over Christmas.
He added: “I think people really get this. All the evidence I’m seeing, people understand this is the time to look after our elderly relatives and avoid spreading the disease.
“Keep it short, keep it small, have yourselves a very little Christmas as I said the other night — that is, I’m afraid, the way through this year.
“Next year I’ve no doubt that as we roll out the vaccine it will be very different indeed.”
However it now transpires the Prime Minister spent Friday night in emergency talks over Christmas travel plans after it was found the new mutations of the Covid strain is 50 percent more contagious.
Is Boris Johnson making an announcement today?
The Prime Minister could announce new travel advice today amid fears people from London and other areas with high R-rates could travel to places with low infection levels – and bring the virus with them.
London and the south-east have an R-rate of 1.1 to 1.3, while the east of England’s value is 1.2 to 1.4 – the highest in the country. But parts of the south west, north west and north east have a R-value of 0.9 to 1.1.
the latest data has sparked fears that anyone travelling from London and the surrounding areas – where the new Covid strain has been discovered – could then spread this mutations around England.
A Government source told The Sun: “What we do not know yet is whether the new strain is more or less likely to cause you harm, but what we have learnt is that it will pass to person to person much more easily and that is what we are really worried about.”
A Whitehall source added: “This is a fluid situation but it’s not looking good and we have to act fast.”
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Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey (with the exception of Waverley), Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex, and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire were moved to the toughest level of restrictions from 12.01am this morning.
Bristol and North Somerset shifted down from Tier 3 to Tier 2 while Herefordshire went down into Tier 1.
Tier 3 conditions mean pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway or delivery services, and indoor entertainment venues are shut.
While in Tier 2, people to meet in groups of up to six outdoors and hospitality venues can stay open but must only serve drinks with substantial meals.
The tiered system is expected to remain in place until the Spring – but it hasn’t ruled out the potential for a third national lockdown, experts have warned.
Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced a post-Christmas lockdown in a bid to halt rising Covid cases after the festive period.
Mr Johnson said he hoped to avoid “anything like that”, but added: “The reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”
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