Millions more people across different parts of the UK entered tougher lockdown restrictions from December 26, the day after Christmas marked annually as Boxing Day, as part of plans announced earlier this week to contain the rapid spread of a highly transmissible variant of coronavirus.
Around six million people in east and south-east England have joined many others into Tier 4, England’s highest Covid level which includes a “stay at home” order.
Lockdowns have also started in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and measures have been reimposed in Wales after being eased for Christmas Day, when the UK crossed another grim milestone of 70,000 coronavirus deaths.
Under the toughest Tier 4 restrictions, all non-essential shops, bars and restaurants are closed and people are not allowed to meet other households, except in a support bubble or in an outdoor public space with one other person. Large parts of England were already in this tier pre-Christmas, including London, after the new mutation was found to be spreading fastest in those regions.
With the devolved administrations setting their own strategies, Northern Ireland goes into a six-week lockdown from Saturday with non-essential shops shut and hospitality open only for takeaway services.
In a move similar to England’s Tier 4 restrictions, Wales will be moving back into Level 4 measures which also means non-essential shops, gyms and beauty salons must close and bars and restaurants can only open for takeaways. And, Scotland is also entering the toughest tier of restrictions for at least three weeks with very similar measures in place.
Meanwhile, France confirmed the first case in the country of the more contagious coronavirus variant in a person who was a French citizen in the central town of Tours who had arrived from London on December 19.
It was among over 40 countries to suspend travel connectivity with the UK, including India, as the new rapid-spreading coronavirus variant in England last week triggered global concern.
Meanwhile, a further 570 deaths in the UK were reported, taking the total number of people dying within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test to 70,195.
This places the UK sixth after the US, Brazil, India, Mexico and Italy in terms of recorded coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England and Scotland increased by 32,725 on Friday.