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75% of England Will Be Under Tier 4 Lockdowns by New Year’s Day

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson just added more sections of England to the toughest Tier 4 restrictions as the country battles a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus.

The city of London and much of southeastern and eastern England were shut down the Sunday before Christmas for two weeks under a new emergency lockdown. Beginning midnight Dec. 31, the Midlands, North East, parts of the North West and parts of South West England will enter Tier 4 lockdowns.

Tier 4 is the toughest of the four-tier restriction model set earlier this month. It’s the tier that also has all nonessential retailers shut down, including beauty salons. In addition, there are limitations on how many people can meet in a public space, such as only those in the same household or with one other person. In the remaining areas that are in Tier 3, such as Liverpool, Cornwall, Herefordshire and North Yorkshire, most shops can stay open. Mixing of households are banned in indoor areas, but up to six people can meet in public areas.

According to Johnson at a Downing Street briefing Wednesday afternoon, the “virus is really surging.” The emergency lockdown nearly two weeks ago was expected to last for just two weeks. There was no indication on the duration of the new lockdown that begins midnight Thursday.

In other parts of the U.K., Wales and Northern Ireland were already in lockdown mode for nearly two weeks, along with mainland Scotland.

Earlier in the day, the U.K. approved the use of the Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca. The U.K. was the first to begin vaccinations using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine beginning the week of Dec. 7.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary said that the approval can help U.K. accelerate the vaccine’s roll out, which he said should help people get their lives back to normal by the spring.