Boris Johnson plunged London and much of the South East into a newly created Tier 4 as Covid took a stranglehold on Christmas.
Those living in Tier 4 areas have been told not to mix with anyone outside their own household for the remainder of the Christmas period, though support bubbles will remain in place for those at particular risk of isolation.
Across the rest of the country, the rules allowing up to three households to meet will now be limited to Christmas Day only, rather than the five days as previously set out.
Under the amplified restrictions:
- Residents in Tier 4 must stay at home, apart from under limited exemptions set out in law.
- Non-essential retail, indoor gyms and leisure facilities, and personal care services must close.
- People must work from home if they can, but may travel to work if this is not possible, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
- People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home. Individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space.
- Unlike the November national restrictions, communal worship can continue to take place in Tier 4 areas.
The PM said: “Yes, Christmas this year will be very different, but we must be realistic.
“We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases.”
Reacting to the new measures, City of London Corporation Policy Chair, Catherine McGuinness, said the annoucement was “very sad news” which will cause huge disappointment to individuals, households and businesses across London.
She added: “Once more we urge policymakers to keep the decision under close review, based on the evidence, so that the capital can move back to the lower tiers and gain a semblance of normality as soon as possible.
“It is if anything even more vital that the businesses and hospitality and cultural enterprises which cannot operate as usual during this critical run up to Christmas and beyond are given adequate support.
“I welcome the start of the vaccine rollout across London and the rest of the UK. In the meantime, though, we must bring this dreadful virus under control, and we strongly urge Londoners to continue to act responsibly by complying with the new Tier 4 rules in order to reduce transmission, save lives and protect the NHS.
“As we look to 2021, we urgently need our economy to thrive to help pay for the vast amount of support being provided at this time. The City will need clarity on when office workers can return to Covid-secure workplaces.
“It is vital to keep as much of the economy operating as possible to help protect livelihoods.”
Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, described the move as a “further hammer blow” to Londoners and the capital’s businesses after what has been a torrid year.
She said: “So many people now find their holiday plans cancelled at the eleventh hour, while the closure of non-essential retail could see many businesses go under.
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“With such a prolonged period of stop-start measures the public will want to know how the new restrictions will reduce infection rates and the Government must stand ready to pump further support to those firms unable to trade normally. That includes extending business rates and VAT relief through to 2021 and further direct support for businesses forced to close.”
Richard Burge, Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Tier 4 should be called what it is: lockdown.
He said: “International travel restrictions have huge implications for London’s airports and onward benefit into the capital’s and UK economy. The Central Activity Zone, that drives the economy of the whole country, has been closed.
“As the Prime Minister said: if the facts change you have to change your approach. Businesses understand that and will of course respond.
“The Government must urgently show that its change of approach also extends to recognising the disproportionate effect these steps have on the mass of businesses in the capital – particularly as so many have planned to recoup some of their 2020 lost revenue during the Christmas and New Year period.
“The Chancellor must this evening announce exceptional and immediate cash and grant aid for all retail, leisure and hospitality business that will be shutting their doors tonight.
“He must also issue appropriate instructions to banks and landlords, and must suspend the payment of all forms of taxes and rates to national and local government bodies.”
And Michael Lassman, London Regional Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said his membership bodyw as devastated.
He said: “London has been moved from Tier 2 to Tier 4 in a period of a week and many shops will find this a bitter pill to swallow when they have spent thousands of pounds to get themselves Covid-secure.
“We are now calling for Government to give adequate proportionate support to the hundreds of thousands of businesses who will be affected by this turn of events.
“We urge consumers to continue to shop where possible with small firms, online, and find supportive ways, such as Pay it Forward methods, to help these businesses get through these extremely challenging times.”