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Boris Johnson tightens Christmas rules as Scotland announces festive travel ban with the rest of the UK

In a press conference this evening, Boris Johnson announced a significant tightening of restrictions in parts of England due to a new fast-spreading strain of Covid-19. 

Johnson said that New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group had estimated that the new variant may be up to 70% more transmissable.

From Sunday, London and the majority of the south and east of England will be under a “tier 4” and “stay at home” order that drastically curtails household mixing over the festive period. All hospitality, leisure, and non-essential retail will shut and household mixing will be banned.

Only those living in tier three and below in England will be able to mix with other households and only on the 25th December, with long-distance travel strongly discouraged. 

“I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year, and how important it is, for instance for grandparents to see their grandchildren, for families to be together,” he said. 

“We have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes, we must change our response.”

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has imposed a strict travel ban with the rest of the UK during the festive period, although Police Scotland have since indicated that there will be no change in their approach to enforcing Covid-19 travel restrictions. 

Additionally, the pre-planned five-day window for Christmas mixing with up to three other households has been reduced to one day, the 25thDecember.

From Boxing Day morning, the whole of mainland Scotland will be plunged into tier 4 restrictions for three weeks. 

All hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail will close and a staggered return for school pupils in January implemented. 

At a press conference tonight, Nicola Sturgeon urged people not to meet indoors with other households over Christmas if they could avoid it.

She said: “Standing here saying this makes me want to cry because I know how harsh it sounds … but this virus is unfair.”

Despite Covid-19 positivity rates in Scotland remaining much lower than England and Wales, Sturgeon said that the new strain of the virus indicated that this was “probably the most serious and dangerous juncture” since the beginning of the pandemic. 

She stated that only seventeen cases of the new variant had been identified in Scotland but emphasised that this was likely an understatement of its prevalence. 

She added: “This new strain is transmitting so quickly that it will very soon overwhelm us.”

Speaking to The Student about the implications of the new restrictions, third year English Literature student Felix said: 

“Although obviously it’s disappointing to be placed under new restrictions just before Christmas, I do think that stopping households from mixing is the right thing to do. 

“It’s just a shame that it has happened so late, after so many U-turns, and after people have already made plans… I’m also very worried for the potential return to university next year, and the financial implications this might have…” 

Image: Flickr