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More areas to move to Tier 4 from Boxing Day

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The government has announced changes to the areas in coronavirus tiers as fears grow about the spread of the new variant of the virus found in the UK and a second new variant present in South Africa.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced the changes in a government briefing.

Sussex, Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex Hampshire, and Waverley in Surrey, have all been moved into Tier 4 to take effect from 00.01 on Boxing Day.

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire, and Warrington, will all move to Tier 3 at the same time.

Cornwall and Herefordshire will move into Tier 2.

A new mutant fast-spreading Covid-19 variant has been discovered in South Africa, so anyone who has travelled from there to the UK in the past fortnight must quarantine.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of Tier 4 on Saturday, with London and the south east given just eight hours’ notice of a move to their new tier.

Doubts are already being raised about waiting until Boxing Day to move other areas into Tier 4.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “Families across the country will be understandably alarmed and anxious at the escalation in the prevalence of this horrific virus.

“Ministers need to act quickly. The usual Boris Johnson dither has disastrous consequences. It’s fiercely urgent that ministers increase vaccination roll out to save lives and minimise harm.”

People living in Tier 4 are only allowed to meet one person outside their household in a public space outside. Indoors mixing of households is not allowed, including on Christmas Day.

People living in other tiers can only form Christmas bubbles for one day, not five as originally planned.

Josh Hardie, Confederation of British Industry deputy director-general, said: “The rapid rise in infections is alarming so it’s only right the government is taking measures to bring the number of cases down to protect public health.

“However, with more areas moving into higher tiers even more businesses face insurmountable pressure after such a tough year.

“While some retailers and entertainment venues have already taken precautionary measures by deciding to close, many others will lose out from one of the busiest periods of the year which brings in billions of pounds.

“Tighter Covid restrictions have already been a huge setback for firms and this will be felt even more by those who have now spent much of the year under them. The extension of government-backed business loans and the furlough scheme will provide some certainty and respite for those under new tiers.

“But the government should revisit support in January to ensure businesses across the UK make it through beyond Spring. Efforts to speed up mass rapid testing and vaccine rollout will help reopen the economy safely, but it is clear challenges will continue well into next year.”

On a positive note, Hancock said that the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca could be approved for use “just after” Christmas.