More people across the UK will be living under tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday. A new strain of Covid-19 has been identified and made experts believe that it could be linked to the significant rise in case numbers in southern England.
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Most of Essex, in addition to London, Greater London and parts of Hertfordshire will move into tier 3 restrictions at 00:01 on Wednesday 16th December. This means that a further 10.8 million people and a total of 61% of England's population will be living under the strictest rules.
Although Downing Street will not review the five-day easing of Christmas rules, people are urged to keep physical contact to a minimum over the festive season.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he thought a government review would be useful to consider a "less unsafe" way the easing of restrictions over Christmas could happen.
He also said that people should refrain from spending “too much time embracing” elderly relatives, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said, "We've got to trust the British people to act responsibly and do the minimum that is possible for them in their family situation."
"It's not that the restrictions are being lifted in their entirety - we're not going from tier three to some sort of tier zero."
University of St Andrews’ Professor Stephen Reicher said, "Right now we are heading towards disaster.”
"Given high levels of infection across the country and the increasing levels in some areas, it is inevitable that if we all do choose to meet up over Christmas then we will pay the price in the new year."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned Covid-19 cases were doubling roughly every seven days in some areas and said this only needs to happen a few times for hospitals to become over-run.
Concerns from certain sectors of the economy were raised under the new rules. The hospitality industry has warned that thousands of jobs would be put at risk.
There is currently much strain on the employment rates in the UK with redundancies reaching the highest ever of 370,000 in the three months leading to October. Official statistics also show the unemployment rate in the UK is still rising.