Brits have been warned not to have New Year’s Eve parties tomorrow to avoid fresh outbreaks of coronavirus.
Boris Johnson and medical experts put out the plea tonight as 78% of England prepared to be plunged into a Tier 4 lockdown from midnight tonight.
The rest of England, apart from 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly, will be in a Tier 3 lockdown.
In both Tiers 3 and 4, people are banned from socialising with anyone who isn’t in their household or bubble, with indoors or in outdoor spaces like gardens.
In Tier 3, groups of up to six can meet in open spaces like parks. But in Tier 4 even that isn’t allowed. Only two people maximum from two households can meet in a park.
Boris Johnson tonight warned “we are still in the tunnel of this pandemic” despite the Oxford coronavirus vaccine being approved in a major breakthrough.
The Prime Minister said: “All of these measures in the end are designed to save lives and protect the NHS.
“For that very reason I must ask you to follow the rule where you live tomorrow night and see in the new year safely at home.
“That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors unless in the same household or support bubble and avoiding large gatherings of any kind
“We are still in the tunnel of this pandemic, the light however is not merely visible … the tunnel has been shortened, we’re moving faster through it and that gives me great confidence about the future in the Spring.”
He added: “Please let’s celebrate sensibly in a way so as not to spread the disease.”
No exceptions to tier rules are being made on New Year’s Eve, like they were in some areas for Christmas.
National medical director at NHS England Professor Stephen Powis said: “Covid loves a crowd, so please leave the parties for later in the year.”
He went on: “We know it’s the end of the year, it’s a time where people traditionally want to celebrate,” he said.
“It’s absolutely vital that, this year, everyone continues to follow the guidance by staying at home and not mixing.”
Prof Jonathan Van Tam said members of the public had “just got to play your part from bringing us back from this very dangerous situation”.
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer added: “Unfortunately it is a pretty grim and depressing picture at the moment.”
He added that the NHS had yet to see the impact of mixing during the festive period.
“The situation in the UK is precarious in many parts already, the South East and London,” he said.
“It is almost certainly true that the NHS has not yet seen the impact of the infections that will have occurred during mixing on Christmas Day and that is also unfortunately rather sobering.”
The escalation of most of England to Tier 4 – which has the same rules as the November lockdown – means the country is almost in a national lockdown in all but name.
The only place in England that pubs and restaurants can open is the Isles of Scilly.
Boris Johnson said a full national lockdown “was an option we considered intensively” but he decided to keep going with tiers for now.
However, he refused to rule out a national lockdown in future – saying the impact of Tier 4 is still “a bit of an open question”.