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Millions wake up to tougher Covid restrictions across the UK
26 December 2020, 23:54
Millions more people have woken up to harsher coronavirus restrictions this Boxing Day as new tier changes come into force in England.
New lockdowns have been introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while restrictions that were eased for Christmas Day in Wales have been be re-imposed in England.
Those in the strict Tier 4 in England will increase by six million to 24 million people, representing 43% of the population, in response to a more transmissible variant being discovered in the UK.
It comes after the Government said a further 570 died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus as of Christmas Day, while there were a further 32,725 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
The new measures are being imposed against a backdrop of increasing infections, hospital admissions and a new more contagious variant in the UK which was announced last week and, according to French media, has been detected in a French man in Tours who lives in England.
The Queen yesterday delivered a heartfelt message of hope to the country in her Christmas address, praising the "indomitable spirit" of those who have risen "magnificently" to the challenges of the pandemic.
In her annual televised speech, the Queen paid tribute to the "kindness of strangers" whose actions have inspired all and, sounding a positive note, said even the "darkest nights" have a promise of a "new dawn".
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury used his Christmas sermon to praise schools and hospitals for bringing hope during the coronavirus crisis.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said more than 10,000 tests have been carried out on lorries drivers waiting to cross the English Channel into France, of which 24 returned a positive result.
Some 1,100 military personnel have been deployed in Kent as part of the operation, after French Covid-19 restrictions caused severe disruption at the Port of Dover.
Areas moving to Tier 4 are Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex not yet in the highest tier, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest.
Tier 4 restrictions include a warning to stay at home, a limit on household mixing to two people outdoors and force the closure of many shops, hairdressers and gyms.
The measures come on top of Tier 3 restrictions such as the closure of pubs and restaurants except for takeaways and deliveries.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington, will all be escalated to Tier 3.
Elsewhere, Cornwall and Herefordshire move from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
Mainland Scotland will enter Level 4 restrictions from Saturday, with the Scottish Government intending the increased measures to last for three weeks.
In Northern Ireland, the first week measures are the toughest yet, with a form of curfew in operation from 8pm, shops closed from that time and all indoor and outdoor gatherings prohibited until 6am.
Non-essential retail will close throughout the next six weeks, as will close-contact services, while hospitality outlets will be limited to takeaway services.