Millions more people in England will be placed into lockdown from Boxing Day as ministers acknowledged mounting concern about the spread of coronavirus.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the variant coronavirus was spreading at a “dangerous rate” as he announced the fresh Tier 4 restrictions.
He also said cases of another new mutant coronavirus linked to South Africa had been found in the UK and placed travel restrictions on the country.
Areas moving to the toughest Tier 4 – where there is a stay at home order – from Boxing Day are: Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire – including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire as well as Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to Tier 3.
Cornwall and Herefordshire move from Tier 1 to Tier 2.
Hancock told a Downing Street press conference: “Just as we had got a tiered system in place that was able to control this virus we have discovered a new, more contagious virus – a variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate.”