Drinkers in Tier 2 areas have taken to bars and pubs for their last pint of the year before being plunged into Tier 3 or Tier 4 at midnight after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that almost all of England will face life under tougher restrictions until the Spring.
Revellers were spotted crowding the streets in Liverpool for the last time in 2020 as they queued to enter a bar for the last remaining hours before the region moves into Tier 3, with bars and hospitality venues forced to close other than providing takeaway services.
Elsewhere in the country drinkers were seen putting the world to rights in Exeter as they sat laughing and joking outside a bar in the city centre, in what may be their only chance to celebrate the upcoming New Year before the area moves into Tier 3.
Speaking during a press conference this evening Boris Johnson warned of a new ‘reality’ with mutant Covid rampant tonight as he plunged virtually the whole of England into brutal lockdown – with the UK recording 981 deaths in the worst daily toll since April and vaccines the only hope of escape.
The PM voiced ‘bitter regret’ after it was announced that three quarters of the country will be in Tier 4 from midnight, adding the rest of the South East, Midlands, North East, parts of the North West and parts of the South West to the top bracket.
Pedestrians walk through central Liverpool tonight before heightened Tier 3 restrictions closing hospitality venues, and bars, start at midnight
Groups of people are seen out on the high street in Liverpool as many visit bars and others seem to have made th emost of the shops
The highest Tier 4 rules, which require all non-essential shops to close, will now apply to more than 44 million.
All remaining areas – barring just 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly – are being escalated to Tier 3, including Liverpool, previously seen as an example of how to cope with the disease.
In reaction to the news tonight huge crowds have been pictured drinking along the North Tyneside coast just hours before the region is set to enter tier four.
On Front Street, in Tynemouth, and the nearby Fish Quay, both of which are lined with bars selling takeaway drinks, people congregated in groups, celebrating the festive season.
It is understood the establishments will be able to carry on operating, while non-essential businesses such as hairdressers and gyms will be forced to close.
Meanwhile, on Northumberland Street in Newcastle city centre, hoards of shoppers could be seen in a last minute dash before the harsher restrictions kick in.
Drinkers head out to celebrate in Exeter, Devon, for their last drinks of 2020 after Johnson announced he would be plunging almost all of England into Tier 3 or 4
Friends enjoy their last drink together for what could be months as tonight’s announcement halts plans for New Year’s Eve
Crowds gather outside a bar as they queue to get in for their last few hours of drinking during 2020
Revellers enjoy a night out in central Liverpool. Tighter coronavirus restrictions will be extended across England from midnight the British government announced, with a new Covid-19 variant blamed for a rapid surge in cases
The highest Tier 4 rules, which require all non-essential shops, hairdressers as well as leisure and entertainment venues to close, will now apply to more than 44 million people. Liverpool, which is moving in to Tier 3, pictured
Independent businesses in Tynemouth this afternoon spoke of their sorrow after hearing the news they will have to close, just weeks after they were able to reopen.
Jill Snailham, 55, has owned the Frank and Ruby Boutique, which sells a selection of independent clothes labels from across Europe, for 11 years.
She said: ‘I am not surprised. I was expecting this. ‘Luckily, we have been really busy over the festive period, and so I hope we will be able to cope over the coming weeks and months. We have worked really hard. We will be trading online.
‘But I fear we might be shut until Easter. ‘I will miss having the buzz of a busy shop. ‘If I am able to continue click and collect, there’ll still be interaction with customers, which is something. ‘I just don’t like to see Matt Hancock delivering this news with a smile on his face.
Groups of people enjoy takeaway drinks in Tier 3 Tynemouth, North Tyneside, before pubs will shut the service in Tier 4
On Front Street, in Tynemouth, and the nearby Fish Quay, both of which are lined with bars selling takeaway drinks, people congregated in groups, celebrating the festive season
Revellers place their drinks on the floor as they stand outside a bar which is offering a takeaway service in Tynemouth
Large groups of people buy takeaway drinks and congregate on the streets and beach in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, tonight
Police officers are seen patrolling the area whilst wearing masks as the restrictions are due to come into force tonight
‘I don’t think the Government have handled the situation very well. ‘I think they need to make it more of a level playing field.
‘What is it that the Range sells that is essential? ‘It’s the small independent businesses which are being hit the hardest. ‘It does not seem very fair.’
Cilena Easton, 52, and Dawn White, 48, own Fezziwigs, a home and gift shop, and neighbouring Artichoke, a card retailer.
Cilena said: ‘We’ve just got to close, we have no choice. ‘I think we need to have a full lockdown across the board. ‘The bars in the village are still able to open for takeaway drinks.
‘There are crowds of people gathering outside and that will be allowed to continue. ‘I don’t have anything against the the hospitality industry at all, and I want our local restaurants and pubs to be able to continue to trade. I have the utmost sympathy for their situation.
‘It’s their livelihoods. ‘But it doesn’t make sense that we have to close when they are able to stay open. ‘We can understand why the bars are doing it. These are local families and couples who need to make a living, but something does need to change.
Large groups of people congregate on Tynemouth beach, in North Tyneside, tonight ahead of Tier 4 restrictions coming into effect across the whole of the North East at midnight
Under Tier 4 no social mixing is allowed inside or outside with anyone outside of your household or support bubble
‘Gardens are being used as toilets. That needs to stop. Under normal circumstances when everything is open this is a brilliant village. But things aren’t working very well at the moment. ‘This shop is really safe. We only allow four people in at any one time.
‘Everyone is having to anti-bac and wear masks. ‘Our customers have been wonderful. We were really busy before Christmas. They have been so supportive. More people have been shopping local.’
Dawn added: ‘I feel for hospitality, but nothing is going to change if the drinking in the street carries on.
‘There needs to be a complete lockdown and there needs to be more financial support for businesses. ‘I hope we will be OK. During the first lockdown we did not push online at all, but during the second we did really well.
‘Different kinds of businesses will come out of this differently. If the bars and restaurants were allowed to open properly, and in a safe way, with social distancing inside, that would be better for everyone.’
Meanwhile, secondary schools have seen their return delayed even further in January, with most pupils now shut out until at least January 18 – two weeks longer than originally planned – while testing systems are put in place.
Hundreds of primaries in the ‘highest infection’ areas will also not fully reopen from January 4, while secondaries will have to wait until the next tier review in two weeks to learn whether they must stay shut indefinitely.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are already in the midst of their own clampdowns amid fears over the more infectious ‘mutant’ strain that is running riot.