UK government officials have announced that the majority of the South East and East of England will enter Tier 3 this weekend, as coronavirus cases continue to rise in many parts of the country.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the increased restrictions were necessary in order to control the virus, adding that “no one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary”.
Areas to be placed into Tier 3 include: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey (except Waverley) Hastings and Rother, Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant.
It comes as cases in the South East of England soared by 46% in the past week alone, while cases in the East of England rose by two-thirds.
Just two areas, Bristol and North Somerset, have been moved down from Tier 3 to Tier 2 as of Saturday 19 December.
Meanwhile, Herefordshire is the sole region to be placed into the lightest restrictions having previously been in Tier 2.
As part of the tightened restrictions, all hospitality venues must close and will only be able to remain open for takeaway and delivery.
Speaking in the Commons today (17 December), Hancock said: “As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control. Yesterday 25,161 cases were reported and there are 18,038 people in hospital with coronavirus in the UK. We must keep suppressing this virus.
“And this isn’t just a matter for the government or for this House, it is a matter for every single person and these are always the most difficult months for people’s health and for the NHS.”
He added: “And especially with the vaccine already here, we must be cautious as we accelerate the vaccine deployment as per the winter plan. We’ve come so far, we mustn’t blow it now.”
It follows an announcement from the Welsh government yesterday (16 December) that the country would enter in level four restrictions in a bid to prevent further strain on the NHS.