Covid-19: Millions wake up to tighter coronavirus restrictions

 Woman walking past shop window

Harsher Covid restrictions now apply to millions more people, as rule changes come into force across the UK.

Around six million people in east and south-east England have gone into tier four, England's highest Covid level - which includes a "stay at home" order.

Lockdowns have also started in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and measures have been reimposed in Wales after being eased for Christmas.

It comes after official UK coronavirus deaths passed 70,000 on Christmas Day.

The toughest measures - which mean the closure of all non-essential shops, as well as hairdressers, swimming pools and gyms - now apply to around 24 million people in England, more than 40% of the population.

From midnight, the whole of Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, as well as areas of Essex not yet in the highest tier, Waverley in Surrey, and all of Hampshire with the exception of the New Forest, all went into tier four.

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington, have all moved up to tier 3. Meanwhile, Cornwall and Herefordshire have moved from tier one to tier two.

Level four lockdown measures have come into force across mainland Scotland for three weeks. Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other island communities are in level three.

And in Northern Ireland, a six-week lockdown has begun. The first week, until 2 January, has stricter restrictions, including essential shops closing at 20:00 GMT and no sport.

For the first week, people are also banned from meeting indoors or outdoors between 20:00 and 06:00.

NI police have legally-enforceable powers to tell anyone out during those hours to return home, unless they have a "reasonable excuse", such as being a key worker or having caring responsibilities.

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