Wales put in Tier 4 lockdown from midnight and Scotland bans travel from rest of UK as bubbles cut to Christmas Day only
WALES is set to be plunged into Tier 4 lockdown from midnight tonight – as Scotland announced a ban on travel from the rest of the UK.
Under the harsh new rules, festive bubbles can only be formed on Christmas Day in both nations.
Non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres and hospitality will close in Wales as part of harsh new restrictions.
It comes after rules were due to be relaxed across the UK from December 23 to 28 to allow families to spend Christmas together.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said 'stay at home' restrictions would also come into effect from midnight.
The announcement comes just hours after Boris Johnson cancelled Christmas for millions of Brits living in London and the South East – with the regions plunged into Tier 4 lockdown from midnight tonight.
Health experts have warned of a "frighteningly transmissible" new variant of the bug in London and the South East, which can spread up to 70 per cent more easily.
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- Boris Johnson today cancelled Christmas for millions as he put London, the South East and East in Tier 4 lockdown
- The new variant strain of the virus which causes Covid-19 may be up to 70% more transmissible
- All Brits have been told to stay local during the festive season
- Christmas bubbles in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 have been cut to just 24 hours on December 25
- Non-essential shops and gyms in Tier 4 areas must be closed from midnight
- Those in Tier 4 will be able to meet only one other person outdoors – but must not stay overnight from home
Announcing the lockdown, Mr Drakeford said the new strain was "genuinely part of the explanation" for a rapid surge in cases across Wales.
He said: "Unfortunately, we must also look again at the arrangements for Christmas – we cannot expose people to the risk of this new, more virulent strain of coronavirus.
"We will therefore change the current rules, which allow two households to come together to form a Christmas bubble over a five-day period, so that they will apply on Christmas Day only.
"Throughout the Alert Level 4 period, a single person household will be able to join with one other household.
"While we all want to avoid further disruption to businesses and plans for Christmas, our overriding duty is to protect lives here in Wales."
He added: "We know that 2021 will be a different and a better year.
"Our economy will recover. Christmas will come again."
The decision comes amid a surge in infections in Wales, with the latest figures showing a case rate of 592.3 cases per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to December 14.
SCOTLAND TRAVEL BAN
Meanwhile, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has tonight announced a “strict travel ban” between Scotland and the rest of the UK during the festive period.
In a press conference this evening, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland faced the "most serious and potentially dangerous juncture we have faced since the start of the pandemic" – but the country could act "on a preventative basis" by banning travel from other regions.
The five-day easing of restrictions in Scotland has also been cut to just one day, though Ms Sturgeon urged Scots only to travel on Christmas day "if there's no alternative".
The latest figures show 17 cases of the new variant tearing through the South East of England have been found in Scotland, with the First Minister warning it "could take hold" in the country without firm action.
Meanwhile in London and the South East of England, travel and different households mixing will be banned under the new highest level tier – with families elsewhere only allowed to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ on December 25 itself.
Mr Johnson warned the nation he could not ignore the terrifying new strain spreading in Kent and London, and vowed: "We have to act to protect the public."
It's thought the new strain – called VUI202012/01 – emerged in London and the South East as early as September, Sir Patrick Vallance said at a Downing Street briefing.
Overall Covid cases have more than doubled, as data shows a sharp increase in hospital admissions across London and the South.
Speaking today at a No10 briefing, the Prime Minsiter said the new strain is up to "70 per cent more transmissible" than the original version of the disease".
He stressed it is early data but told the public "it's the best we have at the moment", adding it could see the R rate increase by 0.4.
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