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East UK plunged into toughest Covid-19 restrictions ahead of Christmas easing

East UK plunged into toughest Covid-19 restrictions ahead of Christmas easing
More areas of east and southeast England are to be placed under the most severe coronavirus measures from Saturday, British health minister Matt Hancock told MPs on Thursday.

Speaking in Parliament, Hancock urged Britons to stay "vigilant," adding "we mustn't blow it now," as he also revealed that most areas of England, already under the strictest Tier-3 restrictions, would remain at their current level.

From Saturday some 38 million people in England will therefore be living under Tier-3 restrictions, 68 percent of the population.

In the south of the country, Bristol and North Somerset will move from Tier 3 into the less severe Tier 2 restrictions, which allow people from the same household to drink in pubs and bars, as long as they have a 'substantial meal.'

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Herefordshire will also go from Tier 2 to Tier 1, meaning residents there will be able to socialise in groups of six people from outside their household and may drink alcohol without purchasing a meal.

But the Health Secretary revealed that at least 17 areas of the south and east of England would be moved into Tier 3, including Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, Reading, Surrey and Portsmouth, among others.

The tiered system of restrictions is reviewed every two weeks, but for now areas like Greater Manchester will remain in Tier 3, a move the region's Mayor Andy Burnham said had left him "disappointed and frustrated."

These latest restrictions come after London entered Tier 3 on Wednesday, meaning that bars and restaurants must shut in the capital, which on Monday had the highest Covid-19 infection rate in England.

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MPs on Thursday pressed Matt Hancock for further details on the Christmas Covid restrictions, which in their current form allow people to travel to any part of the UK and meet with up to three households from December 23-27.

The Labour Party has warned that the easing of restrictions will lead to a "deadly third wave" of the virus, while the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal jointly said that the plans "will cost many lives."

On December 16 the UK reported a further 25,161 Covid-19 infections and another 612 fatalities, taking the total death toll to 65,520.

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