This is what Christmas bubble change announcement means for tier 3 areas
Christmas Covid rules have been dramatically scaled back meaning festive bubbles will now only be able to meet indoors on one day – instead of five.
At a press briefing, Boris Johnson has confirmed changes today (Saturday, December 19) to the Christmas Covid rules which were due to be relaxed between December 23 and 27.
Now across tiers 1, 2 and 3, the Christmas bubbles – which allow three households to come together – will only be allowed to mix indoors on Christmas Day (December 25).
So what are the changes to Christmas?
Areas in Tiers 1 to 3 will now only be allowed to mix in their festive bubbles on Christmas Day – compared to the five days as previously set out.
There will be no relaxation on the 31st of December so people must not break the rules at New Year.
Mr Johnson said: “Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned.
"In England those living in Tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas – though support bubbles will remain in place for those at particular risk of loneliness or isolation.”
What is Tier 4 and which areas are involved?
Mr Johnson says new restrictions are being introduced in the most affected areas specifically in London, the South East and the East which are currently in Tier 3.
These areas will enter Tier 4 where restrictions will be similar to those brought in during the national lockdown in November.
Residents in those areas must stay at home apart from limited exceptions. Non-essential retail, indoor gyms, personal care services must close.
People should work from home where they can unless it is not possible such as in construction.
People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas and Tier 4 residents should not stay overnight away from home.
Individuals can only meet one person from a different household in an outdoor public space.
Communal worship can continue to take place.
These restrictions come into place tomorrow morning (Sunday, December 20) and around 17million people will be affected.
What are the changes to travelling?
Mr Johnson said: “We are asking everyone in all tiers to stay local. People should carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad and they should follow the rules in their tier.
"Those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad apart from limited exceptions such as for work purposes.”
What is the new variant of the virus?
The new variant strain of the virus which causes Covid-19 may be up to 70% more transmissible and could increase the R value by 0.4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
He said: “It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus which we spoke about earlier this week and learned about earlier this week.
"Our advisory group on new and emerging respiratory virus threats, Nervetag, has spent the last few days analysing this new variant.
"There is no evidence that it causes more severe illness or higher mortality but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily.
"Nervetag’s earlier analysis suggests the new variant could increase the R by 0.4 or more and although there is considerable uncertainty it might be up to 70% more transmissible than the original version of the disease.”
What had the Government said earlier in the week?
On Friday, December 18, Mr Johnson declined to rule out a third national lockdown amid rising rates of coronavirus.
Mr Johnson was asked whether England would follow Northern Ireland in imposing stringent restrictions after the festive period.
He said: “We’re hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that. But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”
Just two days earlier on Wednesday, December 16, Mr Johnson told MPs that the four UK nations had agreed to continue “in principle” with the easing of Covid restrictions over Christmas.
He had previously urged people to “exercise extreme caution” while celebrating Christmas.