From 00:01 today, tier four restrictions were expanded across England, placing another 20 million people under the most stringent Covid-19 regulations.
After yesterday’s announcement, people in Lancashire, Birmingham and the Black Country, Cumbria, the Isle of Wight, all of northeast England, and most of Yorkshire are now facing tier four restrictions.
NHS professionals and government officials have urged people not to have New Year parties and have stressed the importance of complying with the rules.
Professor Stephen Powis, the Medical Director for the NHS, has said, "We know it's the end of the year, it's a time where people traditionally want to celebrate."
"But it's absolutely vital that this year, everybody continues to follow the guidance by staying at home and not mixing."
"Covid loves a crowd, so please leave the parties for later in the year."
The Metropolitan Police has also released a warning to those in London, urging them to "celebrate the new year in the comfort of their own homes, not the homes of family and friends".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson further pressed the importance of staying at home to those living in all tiers. In Wednesday's Downing Street press conference, the PM said, "That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors, unless they're in the same household or support bubble, and avoiding large gatherings of any kind.”
Further to restrictions on socialising, parents across the UK are concerned over the reopening of schools. Many children are due to return to school on Monday. However, some schools will now remain closed for at least two more weeks, with some exceptions for secondary school pupils in exam years.
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, announced in the Commons on Wednesday that primary school children in high-risk areas were not to return to school in the new term. This announcement means at least one million primary school pupils in England will remain at home next week.
Many council authorities have voiced concerns about the announcement, given that Williamson did not confirm the full details there and then. Many believe this measure does not follow a logical pattern. There are some areas, like London, who do not face these restrictions, despite having higher numbers in coronavirus cases.
Parents and pupils have been told that they can return to school "in the third week of term."
The rapid change in tack has been put down to a significant rise in numbers. On Wednesday, 50,023 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK, along with 981 more deaths of people with a positive Covid-19 test in the 28 days prior.