UK brings in Tier 4 restrictions for South East and London

tier 4 restrictions, south east
© Anizza

As of midnight tonight (20 December), London and the South East will enter strict Tier 4 restrictions – which includes no household mixing over Christmas, and no commuting to work

At a Saturday afternoon press conference, PM Boris Johnson announced that London and the South East region of England would be entering stricter Tier 4 restrictions over the Christmas period.

Citing a recent mutation in the COVID-19 virus, PM Johnson made a significant U-turn on Christmas policy as COVID-19 cases steadily rose in the South. Just four days ago, he described any potential ban on Christmas as “frankly inhuman.”

Today (19 December), the PM said: “When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defence. We have to act on information as we have it, because this is now spreading very fast.”

The mutation that changed Christmas

According to a research team at University College London, there were 12,706 COVID-19 mutations in November. These mutations were found across 99 countries and 46,000 people. But, impressively, none of these made the virus more infectious.

Professor Simon Balloux (UCL Genetics Institute), commented: “The news on the vaccine front looks great. The virus may well acquire vaccine-escape mutations in the future, but we’re confident we’ll be able to flag them up promptly, which would allow updating the vaccines in time if required.”

While this new strain appears to be 70% more transmissible, it should not impact the power of COVID-19 vaccines. The severity of COVID-19 contracted from the new mutation is not worse than it was before, meaning that the virus is not learning new ways to harm the human body.

What does Tier 4 look like?

Indoor gyms, personal care services and commuting to work is now banned. Unless the work is something that must be done in person, for which PM Johnson gave the examples of manufacturing or construction, commuting must be avoided.

“These are broadly equivalent to the national restrictions in place in November,” he said.

If you are living in a Tier 4 area, then you should not enter or leave that area – including no overnight stays, which will severely impact how people spend their holidays. Support bubbles still exist, but it is unclear if support bubble split between Tier 4 and other Tier-regions are able to continue meeting.

A person can only meet one other person from another household in an outdoor space, which limits how households can interact even in well-ventilated outdoor areas. Unlike in November, communal worship can continue under Tier 4 restrictions. This will be a relief to many faith communities.

Which cities will now enter Tier 4 restrictions?

On 18 December, there were 28,507 new cases of COVID-19 in the UK. This looks like 1 in 35 people in London, and 1 in 17 people in Greater Manchester. But guidelines for the entire population have now changed. Instead of a 5 day window for Christmas socialisation between 3 households, the socialisation window is now limited to Christmas day.

Responding to the new policy, London mayor Sadiq Khan, commented: “This continued chaos and confusion could all have been avoided had the Government not made irresponsible promises to the public and raised expectations about the Christmas period.

“I urge Londoners to follow the new restrictions closely, so that we can protect our NHS and prevent more tragic deaths.”

According to ITV political correspondent Paul Brand, most Northern cities have been spared this new level of restriction:


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