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Millions of Londoners will be plunged into a Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown days before Christmas after the government confirmed the capital and parts of two counties will be subject to tighter restrictions from Wednesday.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the coronavirus restrictions will be in place in London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex from 12.01am on Wednesday.
He said the government cannot wait until Wednesday daytime, when the first routine review of the tier system was due, after a steep increase in Covid-19 cases.
The move is opposed by many MPs and business leaders and will mean pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer a takeaway service in the normally busy pre-Christmas period.
From Wednesday more than 30 million people will be living under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.
The government warned there was "exponential" growth in cases in many London boroughs and some of the major commuter areas in places in Hertfordshire and Essex.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan had warned it was possible a decision on the capital's tier status could be brought forward after a sharp spike in the infection rate.
He warned bumping London up to Tier 3 restrictions would be "catastrophic" for businesses in what should be the "golden quarter" of the year before Christmas.
London on verge of devastating pre-Christmas Tier 3 Covid lockdown as cases rise
London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the government to consider shutting all secondary schools and colleges early ahead of Christmas.
But the PM’s official spokesman said : “We expect schools to be open to the end of term”
The exact parts of Hertfordshire and Essex to enter Tier 3 are yet to be confirmed.
London hit 225 new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to December 8, increasing every day since a lockdown low of 155 per 100,000 on November 26.
Calls for all London schools to shut today as Tier 3 looms amid coronavirus rise
An estimated 4,710 people in London tested on December 11 came back positive for Covid-19 – almost double the 2,402 on December 6.
The data for December 11 is still incomplete because it is so recent, and could be revised down. But it may also be revised up as more tests come back with results.
Under Tier 2 rules, people will be banned from meeting people from outside their household or bubble, either indoors or outdoors. The only exception to us is open spaces like parks.
People will be urged not to travel beyond their area except for essential reasons like work and school.
The coronavirus restrictions are set to be relaxed nationwide between December 23 and 27 to allow families to enjoy Christmas together.
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