Parts of England, including the Greater London area, entered Tier 3 restrictions today, after a spike in Covid-19 cases forced the government to act. It is currently the highest level of Covid-19 measures in the country, with bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants operating by take-out only.
Parts of Essex and Hertfordshire have also moved under the restrictions, where groups of up to six can only meet in outdoor public spaces. People cannot gather indoors with anybody they do not live with, or others outside of their support bubble.
The latest restrictions see retail and personal care, such as hairdressers and beauty salons, able to remain open. However, indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres and concert halls, must close.
Before today, nearly the whole population of England was already living under Tier 2 restrictions, with only some parts in Tier 3. Now, around thirty million people will be told to avoid travelling outside their districts, unless it is for work, education, health or care requirements.
Matt Hancock said it was a “salutary warning for the whole country” as he urged people to minimise all social contact. “This isn’t over yet,” he said, placing London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire under tier 3 and bringing the number of people under the strictest rules to 34 million.
Hancock told the House of Commons that more than 1,000 cases of the new virus strain have been found in almost 60 areas. These were predominantly in the southern parts of England. He added that although the new strain is spreading faster, clinical advice suggested it was “highly unlikely” the mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine.
England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty said there was no evidence the strain is more dangerous, and that it will be picked up by tests. Professor Whitty said the new strain was not the reason behind the Tier 3 restrictions.
“The reason that Tier 3 has been brought in is because the rates have been going up very fast in many areas. The variant may or may not be contributing to that but the reality of that is that is happening across the board, and that’s the reason for making the changes.”
Meanwhile, Germany has also brought in new measures. Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed on new restrictions on Sunday. This comes as the country registered a record number of deaths associated with Covid-19. Partial lockdown restrictions were already in place to cope with a recent surge in infections.
In the precious 24 hours, 952 people died of Covid-19, according to the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre. 27,728 new coronavirus cases were registered, close to the daily record of nearly 30,000 infections reported last Friday.
Almost 600 people were reported to have died on Friday and the number of people in intensive care units is said to have reached alarming levels. The Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) said 83% of intensive care beds in hospitals were occupied today.
Non-essential shops and schools are now closed in a bid to halt an “exponential growth” in infections. Lockdown restrictions will apply in Germany until January 10th.