POPULAR shopping strips were today deserted after London was thrown into lockdown just five days before Christmas.
High streets and shopping centres that would normally be teeming with Brits doing their last minute festive shopping were left empty after the Tier 4 regulations were brought in at midnight.
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Images of Regent Street and Oxford Street this morning show just a few Brits – in stark contrast to the crowds that were teeming with shoppers barely 24 hours ago.
Yesterday, masked crowds had been pictured walking through shopping streets and queuing for department stores to buy up big for Christmas Day.
But about 20 million Brits were last night told their Christmas was cancelled in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus – with the new strain that is feared to be 70 per cent more infectious.
The lockdown rules mean the closure of non-essential retail shops, hairdressers and nail salons.
Boris announced the Tier 4 lockdown for London and the South East yesterday afternoon – giving shops just hours notice they would be closing as the new rules came into force at midnight.
And today, streets were deserted.
West End was also empty as shows were once again forced to close their curtains.
Businesses that were depending on a last gasp of Christmas shopping after adifficult year of lockdown and closures are now continuing to reel.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) called the unveiling of Tier 4 as "hugely regrettable".
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, blasted: "Retailers have invested millions of pounds making stores Covid-secure for customers and staff, and Sage’s advice has said throughout that closing non-essential retail has a minimal impact on the spread of the virus."
And, Rachael Robathan, the leader of Westminster City Council said the move left businesses “staring into the abyss after having had a last gasp at pre-Christmas sales snatched from them”.
The Confederation of British Industry also called the measures a “real kick in the teeth” for many businesses.
But the government today insisted the move was necessary.
Matt Hancock this morning admitted the new coronavirus strain was "out of control" and needed tougher measures to stop the spread.
Matt Hancock today warned London and the South East could be trapped in Tier 4 for MONTHS until the vaccine takes hold.
And Mr Hancock admitted it was an “awful end to an incredibly difficult year.”
He added: “Everybody has been really looking forward to (Christmas) after all the sacrifices that have been made but unfortunately this virus, the new strain, was out of control.”
But he insisted the government needed to act after being presented with the scientific evidence over the new, more contagious strain.
He advised Brits living in Tier 4 areas to act as if they had the virus to try to minimise the spread.
Today, the UK recorded its worst daily increase with a shocking 35,928 infections recorded.
What non-essential shops are open in Tier 4?
Like in previous lockdowns, all non-essential retail will shut under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions.
Latest government advice states that this includes:
- Garden centres and Christmas tree retailers
- Building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
- Market stalls selling essential retail
- Businesses providing repair services but only if they primarily offer repair services
- Petrol stations
- Automatic (but not manual) car washes
- Vehicle repair and MOT services
- Bicycle shops
- Taxi and vehicle hire businesses
- Banks and building societies
- Post offices
- Short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
- Funeral directors
- Laundrettes and dry cleaners
- Medical and dental services
- Vets and pet shops
- Animal rescue centres, boarding facilities, and animal groomers
- Agricultural supplies shops
- Mobility and disability support shops
- Storage and distribution facilities
- Car parks
- Public toilets
- Motorway service areas
- Outdoor playgrounds
- Outdoor gyms, pools, sports courts and facilities
- Golf courses
- Archery/driving/shooting ranges (outdoors)
- Outdoor riding centres
The huge spike is almost double last week's daily figures – with the new stats also recording another 326 fatalities on the first day millions of Brits woke up to Tier 4 lockdown.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told a news conference that while he supported the new measures, "yet again the prime minister waited until the 11th hour to take this decision".
He added: "The alarm bells have been ringing for weeks but the prime minister chose to ignore them … He told the country to go ahead and have a merry little Christmas … and yet three days later he tells millions of families to rip up those plans," he said, referring to comments Johnson made on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Brits have today been banned from flying into a string of European countries including Italy, Holland and Belgium as the UK revealed a new strain of Covid-19 had emerged.
The Dutch government announced that all flights from the UK had been banned from entering Holland – with Belgium then following suit by halting flights and the Eurostar trains for at least 24 hours.
Italy and Austria has since announced similar measures while Germany is understood to be considering action.
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