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New Tier 4 restrictions after mutant Covid variant spread

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Written by: Emma Lunn
21/12/2020
The whole of London and swathes of the South East are now under Tier 4 restrictions, effectively returning a large proportion of the country to lockdown.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the new tougher restrictions on Saturday after scientists raised the alarm about a new fast-spreading coronavirus variant causing a sharp rise in infections.

In Tier 4 the ‘stay at home’ message will be put in law. As previously, there will be exemptions – including travelling for work or education, for childcare purposes, and for exercise.

People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home. Where people cannot work from home, they should still travel to work, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Non-essential retail, indoor leisure (such as swimming pools and gyms), indoor entertainment (i.e. cinemas, bowling alleys and casinos), and personal care sectors (nail bars, barbers and hairdressers) must all close.

Tighter social contact restrictions will also be introduced, meaning one person can meet with one other person in an outside public space. Rules on support bubbles and childcare bubbles will remain as before, and communal worship can continue to take place.

For the clinically extremely vulnerable, the same advice as in November applies in Tier 4 areas. This says that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, which includes people with certain types of cancer, people on immunosuppression therapy, and people with severe respiratory conditions, shouldn’t go to work and should limit time outside the home, and take exercise outside at less busy times.

There is no current evidence to suggest the new variant causes a higher mortality rate, that it affects vaccines and treatments, or that testing will not detect cases.

Johnson also said that given the risk the new variant poses, the Christmas bubble policy will no longer apply in Tier 4. For Tiers 1, 2 and 3, Christmas bubbles can continue with up to three households able to meet, but for one day only on Christmas Day.

The government is also issuing new travel advice. Although the new variant is concentrated in Tier 4 areas, it is present at lower levels around the country.
People under Tier 1, 2, and 3 restrictions should stay local. People should not travel into or out of Tier 4 areas and those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad, apart from limited exceptions including work and education.

Restrictions for all tiers will be reviewed on 30 December.

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