Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dramatically cancelled Christmas for millions of  people this afternoon as London and the South East are placed into a newly-created tier four lockdown, as concerns over a mutant strain of coronavirus spreading rapidly through the population grow.

Tier 4 restrictions will apply in all areas in the South East which are currently in tier 3, covering Kent Buckinghamshire Berkshire (excluding Waverley) Gosport Havant Portsmouth Rother and Hastings, and will also apply in all 32 boroughs of the City of London, and the East of England.

In Wales first minister mark Drakeford has announced that the country will be placed under lockdown from Midnight tonight.

From midnight, non-essential services such as gyms, hairdressers and barbers will have to close.

In a briefing this afternoon Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation “I know how disappointing this will be. But we have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science.”

The rest of England will see the Christmas “bubble” policy, allowing up to three households to meet up over the holiday period,  strictly curtailed, applying on Christmas Day only, and anyone in a Tier 4 area must not mix with people outside their household over Christmas.

The latest restriction are yet another blow to the beleaguered hospitality sector. Earlier this week  trade body UKHospitality warned that placing more regions into tier 3 will bring further despair to already hard-pressed businesses.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Placing mor

e areas into tier 3 is only going to ruin Christmas for those businesses entering

and continued despair and heartbreak for th

ose hard-pressed businesses that had hoped they might move into tier 2.

“Businesses will have bought stock which will now go to waste a

nd more people will lose work at a stressful time. Hotels are now facing a deluge of short-notice cancellations because of the tightening of restrictions. What was already looking like a bleak Christmas is now looking like a total write-off.

“This will be a bitter blow for businesses that would have been hoping to m

ake the best of a difficult Christmas period. The increased restrictions, effectively a total shutdown for most, will make it even more difficult for businesses to salvage what little they can from what should be a busy period.

The sector faces even more hardship with the newly created tier 4, and tighter restrictions surrounding the Christmas Bubble.

The tiered restrictions affecting the hospitality sector are:

  • Tier 1 Pubs, restaurants and cafés can open, operating in a Covid-safe manner, providing table service only, and pubs that do not serve food are also permitted to open. The ‘rule of six’ applies in Tier 1, allowing up to six members of different households to mix both indoors and outdoors. The curfew system is eased marginally: previously, customers in Tier 1 pubs had to leave the premises by 10pm. Under the new rules, last orders can be called at 10pm, with people allowed to finish their food and drinks by 11pm.
  • Tier 2 Pubs, restaurants and cafés are allowed to reopen and serve alcohol but only if they serve substantial meals.  ‘Wet-led pubs’ and bars that do not serve food cannot open.
  • In Tier 2 venues, only people of the same household can visit for table service only. The ‘rule of six’ (which allows six members of different households to come together) applies outdoors. The one-hour extension to the curfew also applies to pubs and restaurants in this tier, with last orders at 10pm and customers must to leave by 11pm.
  • Tier 3 Pubs and restaurants are permitted to open for a takeaway service only. Previously, hospitality venues were allowed to stay open if they served substantial meals.
  • Tier 4 Again takeaway service only. Under Tier 4 rules, indoor hospitality venues follow the same guidelines as those in Tier 3.

The Prime Minister urged people in all tiers to “stay local”, adding that everyone should “carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad”, and  warned the country that they also must not break the new restrictions over New Year. He said: “Without action the evidence suggests that infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed and many thousands more would lose their lives.”

Adding: “Yes, Christmas this year will be different, very different. We’re sacrificing the chance to see our loved ones this Christmas so that we have a better chance of protecting their loves, so that we can see them at future Christmases.