England wakes up to life after lockdown – and people head to Primark

England’s lockdown is over and today shoppers used their new freedom to queue outside Primark and Debenhams before dawn to grab pre-Christmas bargains on Wild Wednesday and people were giddy with excitement about returning to the pub for the first time in four weeks.

Fitness fanatics also headed for the gym at midnight, others had haircuts at 1am or went to the golf course at first light while commuters went back to the office for the first time since November 5 as Boris Johnson’s controversial tiers system was approved in the Commons last night.

From Midnight 99 per cent of England was placed in Tier 2 or Tier 3 – meaning they are banned from all indoor socialising with other households apart from over the Christmas period. Just Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly are in Tier 1.

But despite the restrictions on 55million people, many are excited about returning to the pub from breakfast time or meeting friends outside for a pint later as long as they have a ‘substantial meal’. Landlords are using ingenious ways to get around the rules, including one in Worcester who have opened for drinks as long as people order food from the chippy next door.

People snaked around the block outside Primark in the Birmingham Bullring this morning while Karen, a mental health nurse, was queuing outside Manchester’s Primark after 5am saying she wanted to grab some bargains and actually see what she was buying. 

Pictures of the Tube showed some train carriages were packed during the morning rush hour – but while there were traffic jams  on busier routes, congestion in London is at the same level as a week ago and down around 50 per cent on last year, according to TomTom traffic data.

Debenhams has started a fire sale of its stock today as administrators began to liquidate the department store after 242 years of trading. Shoppers looking to grab up to 70 per cent off items waited in online queues to buy from the website and headed to the stores this morning.

Today is being branded ‘Wild Wednesday’ because shops can stay open all night to claw back some of £900million-a-day economic hit caused by Boris Johnson’s controversial tier system. Stores including Primark will open for 24-hours from this morning.

Gym boss Andreas Michli, 34, was mobbed by supporters as he threw his doors open on the stroke of midnight. The owner was fined £67,000 and taken to court last month by Haringey Council after a stand-off with more than 30 police officers over three days at the Zone Gym in Wood Green, North London.

As Boris Johnson suffered his biggest ever Tory rebellion over tiers, it also emerged today: 

  • Pfizer’s vaccine is APPROVED by regulators for use in UK and could be rolled out across country NEXT WEEK after Government orders 40million doses;
  • Debenhams expects to close all its 124 stores by early January – after a massive sale of stock after its rescue deal collapsed following Arcadia’s administration;
  • Pubs are set to open again – as confusion continues about what constitutes a ‘substantial meal’ needed to have an alcoholic drink;
  • The Government announced a further 603 Covid deaths on Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 59,051.  There had been a further 13,430 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, as cases continue to drop;
Young shoppers try to force themselves into Oxford Street's JD Sports as lockdown ended in England after four weeks and shops opened on Wild Wednesday

Young shoppers try to force themselves into Oxford Street's JD Sports as lockdown ended in England after four weeks and shops opened on Wild Wednesday

Young shoppers try to force themselves into Oxford Street’s JD Sports as lockdown ended in England after four weeks and shops opened on Wild Wednesday

The first customers of the day at Five degree West pub in Falmouth, Cornwall enjoy a pint. It is one of only three areas in Tier 1

The first customers of the day at Five degree West pub in Falmouth, Cornwall enjoy a pint. It is one of only three areas in Tier 1

The first customers of the day at Five degree West pub in Falmouth, Cornwall enjoy a pint. It is one of only three areas in Tier 1

Debenhams (pictured in Harrow) has started a fire sale of its stock today as administrators began to liquidate the department store after 242 years of trading

Debenhams (pictured in Harrow) has started a fire sale of its stock today as administrators began to liquidate the department store after 242 years of trading

Debenhams (pictured in Harrow) has started a fire sale of its stock today as administrators began to liquidate the department store after 242 years of trading

Two young women leave Lakeside in Essex laden with bags as England hit the shops with enthusiasm today

Two young women leave Lakeside in Essex laden with bags as England hit the shops with enthusiasm today

Two young women leave Lakeside in Essex laden with bags as England hit the shops with enthusiasm today

Swimmers known as the Lido Ladies pose by the pool during sunrise at Charlton Lido in Hornfair Park, London

Swimmers known as the Lido Ladies pose by the pool during sunrise at Charlton Lido in Hornfair Park, London

Swimmers known as the Lido Ladies pose by the pool during sunrise at Charlton Lido in Hornfair Park, London

Barbers Emma Rolfe and Toby Sewell from The Town Barber in Falmouth, Cornwall, get to work with two customers before dawn

Barbers Emma Rolfe and Toby Sewell from The Town Barber in Falmouth, Cornwall, get to work with two customers before dawn

Barbers Emma Rolfe and Toby Sewell from The Town Barber in Falmouth, Cornwall, get to work with two customers before dawn

Gym members return to David Lloyd health club in Leicester as businesses reopened with restrictions today

Gym members return to David Lloyd health club in Leicester as businesses reopened with restrictions today

Gym members return to David Lloyd health club in Leicester as businesses reopened with restrictions today

Social distancing wasn't possible on the Jubilee Line into central London this morning as the capital emerged from lockdown

Social distancing wasn't possible on the Jubilee Line into central London this morning as the capital emerged from lockdown

Social distancing wasn’t possible on the Jubilee Line into central London this morning as the capital emerged from lockdown

Long queues of traffic on the A40 at Perrivale, West London as the second national lockdown ends this morning and replaced with tiers

Long queues of traffic on the A40 at Perrivale, West London as the second national lockdown ends this morning and replaced with tiers

Long queues of traffic on the A40 at Perrivale, West London as the second national lockdown ends this morning and replaced with tiers

There were traffic jams today but congestion in London is at the same level as a week ago, according to TomTom traffic data, and down around 50 per cent on last year

There were traffic jams today but congestion in London is at the same level as a week ago, according to TomTom traffic data, and down around 50 per cent on last year

There were traffic jams today but congestion in London is at the same level as a week ago, according to TomTom traffic data, and down around 50 per cent on last year

People in England were quick to seize upon greater freedoms after the national lockdown ended and was replaced by a tiered system of restrictions.

 And it appears many have hit the shops.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Thousands of retailers are looking forward to welcoming back customers.

‘Safety remains the biggest priority for retailers, who have spent hundreds of millions to make stores Covid-secure.

‘With billions in sales lost during lockdown, stores are looking to offer a safe and enjoyable shopping experience to bring back customers.

‘Christmas is around the corner so everyone has a reason to be visiting their local shops.

‘Every purchase we make is a retailer helped, a job protected and a local community supported.’

Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner threw open his doors at the stroke of midnight.  

All non-essential shops are allowed to open from today, paving the way for a festive spending spree that will likely drive people back to the nation’s ailing high streets. 

A fire sale at Debenhams is expected to fuel the shopping bonanza as bargain-hunters are lured by price cuts of up to 70 per cent ahead of the company’s impending liquidation following the collapse of rescue talks.

A precursor to today’s likely stampede for generous discounts – as the chain reopens its soon-to-be axed 124 stores – was seen last night when more than a million people swamped the department store’s website.   

JD Sports staff have to warn customers to enter the Oxford Street branch carefully today as social distancing went out the window

JD Sports staff have to warn customers to enter the Oxford Street branch carefully today as social distancing went out the window

JD Sports staff have to warn customers to enter the Oxford Street branch carefully today as social distancing went out the window

Debenhams is hoping for a rush of customers as it tries to sell its stock off ahead of liquidation

Debenhams is hoping for a rush of customers as it tries to sell its stock off ahead of liquidation

Debenhams is hoping for a rush of customers as it tries to sell its stock off ahead of liquidation

Two women wrestle with their bags and wrapping paper outside Lakeside in Thurrock

Two women wrestle with their bags and wrapping paper outside Lakeside in Thurrock

Two women wrestle with their bags and wrapping paper outside Lakeside in Thurrock

Shoppers queue outside Zara in the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham as town and city centres came alive again

Shoppers queue outside Zara in the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham as town and city centres came alive again

Shoppers queue outside Zara in the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham as town and city centres came alive again

Footlocker in central London was also busy as people queued for discounted trainers on the first proper day of Christmas shopping

Footlocker in central London was also busy as people queued for discounted trainers on the first proper day of Christmas shopping

Footlocker in central London was also busy as people queued for discounted trainers on the first proper day of Christmas shopping

Security was needed at shoppers entered Primark at 7am in Oxford Street as people rushed to get bargain

Security was needed at shoppers entered Primark at 7am in Oxford Street as people rushed to get bargain

Security was needed at shoppers entered Primark at 7am in Oxford Street as people rushed to get bargain

Primark stock is rolled into its Oxford street store by staff this morning as retailers hope for a Christmas shopping boost

Primark stock is rolled into its Oxford street store by staff this morning as retailers hope for a Christmas shopping boost

Primark stock is rolled into its Oxford street store by staff this morning as retailers hope for a Christmas shopping boost

Sophia Sammee is among the many thousands of people who went back to the gym this morning for their fitness fix as lockdown restrictions ended

Sophia Sammee is among the many thousands of people who went back to the gym this morning for their fitness fix as lockdown restrictions ended

Sophia Sammee is among the many thousands of people who went back to the gym this morning for their fitness fix as lockdown restrictions ended 

Paul Crossman (left a licensee and pub campaigner based in York, toasts the end of lockdown as millions are able to go out drinking with a 'substantial meal'

Paul Crossman (left a licensee and pub campaigner based in York, toasts the end of lockdown as millions are able to go out drinking with a 'substantial meal'

Paul Crossman (left a licensee and pub campaigner based in York, toasts the end of lockdown as millions are able to go out drinking with a ‘substantial meal’

The sudden burst of activity as England flings off the blanket restrictions is being dubbed ‘Wild Wednesday’ – but will still see the overwhelming majority of the public living under draconian laws.  

Boris Johnson last night overcame the largest Tory rebellion of his premiership for his new tier system to clear the Commons by 291 to 78, with abstaining Labour MPs getting the vote across the line.

It heralds a tack back to the Government’s previous strategy of carving the country into three ‘alert levels’ – albeit this time with harsher measures and with 99 per cent of the country facing the top two tiers. 

Pubs have had their curfew extended to 11pm but are grappling with the fresh regulations. In Tier 2, they can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’ and in Tier 3 they are limited to just takeaways. 

But despite the presence of the pandemic still looming large over everyday life, many Britons were jubilant as the showering of freedoms came into effect today. 

Early morning swimmers during sunrise at Charlton Lido at south-east London this morning as people took a step towards much needed normality

Early morning swimmers during sunrise at Charlton Lido at south-east London this morning as people took a step towards much needed normality

Early morning swimmers during sunrise at Charlton Lido at south-east London this morning as people took a step towards much needed normality

People queueing outside T.K.Maxx in Birmingham where they can get  up to 60 per cent off items inside

People queueing outside T.K.Maxx in Birmingham where they can get  up to 60 per cent off items inside

People queueing outside T.K.Maxx in Birmingham where they can get  up to 60 per cent off items inside

People queued around the block to get into their local Primark as it opened for the next 24 hours

People queued around the block to get into their local Primark as it opened for the next 24 hours

People queued around the block to get into their local Primark as it opened for the next 24 hours 

Commuters cross London Bridge this morning as more offices open up after four weeks of only essential travel

Commuters cross London Bridge this morning as more offices open up after four weeks of only essential travel

Commuters cross London Bridge this morning as more offices open up after four weeks of only essential travel

Shoppers queue outside Primark in Birmingham as England's lockdown ended and people went out shopping on Wild Wednesday

Shoppers queue outside Primark in Birmingham as England's lockdown ended and people went out shopping on Wild Wednesday

Shoppers queue outside Primark in Birmingham as England’s lockdown ended and people went out shopping on Wild Wednesday

Inside shoppers grabbed bargains with Primark's stores among those opening for 24-hours to claw back cash

Inside shoppers grabbed bargains with Primark's stores among those opening for 24-hours to claw back cash

Inside shoppers grabbed bargains with Primark’s stores among those opening for 24-hours to claw back cash

Queues outside of Primark on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre this morning one hour before the store opens

Queues outside of Primark on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre this morning one hour before the store opens

Queues outside of Primark on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre this morning one hour before the store opens

Wetherspoons pub in Southampton getting tables out ready for the first day of trading again after lockdown

Wetherspoons pub in Southampton getting tables out ready for the first day of trading again after lockdown

Wetherspoons pub in Southampton getting tables out ready for the first day of trading again after lockdown

Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner, Andreas Michli, (pictured), who was previously fined for breaching lockdown, threw open his doors on the stroke of midnight

Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner, Andreas Michli, (pictured), who was previously fined for breaching lockdown, threw open his doors on the stroke of midnight

Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner, Andreas Michli, (pictured), who was previously fined for breaching lockdown, threw open his doors on the stroke of midnight

Hundreds of thousands of shoppers have swamped the Debenhams website to snap up generous discounts as the department store tries to clear its stock before closing for good

Hundreds of thousands of shoppers have swamped the Debenhams website to snap up generous discounts as the department store tries to clear its stock before closing for good

Debenhams  are prepared for liquidation after 242 years of trading with 12,000 jobs at risk after JD Sports declined to buy the brand in the chaos caused by Arcadia's collapse

Debenhams  are prepared for liquidation after 242 years of trading with 12,000 jobs at risk after JD Sports declined to buy the brand in the chaos caused by Arcadia's collapse

Hundreds of thousands of shoppers have swamped the Debenhams website to snap up generous discounts as the department store tries to clear its stock before closing for good

The Tube was busier than usual at London Bridge station this morning as people returned to the office

The Tube was busier than usual at London Bridge station this morning as people returned to the office

The Tube was busier than usual at London Bridge station this morning as people returned to the office

People wearing face masks walk past a sign on Market Street, Manchester, which is in Tier 3 but wants to get to Tier 2

People wearing face masks walk past a sign on Market Street, Manchester, which is in Tier 3 but wants to get to Tier 2

People wearing face masks walk past a sign on Market Street, Manchester, which is in Tier 3 but wants to get to Tier 2

Debenhams on Oxford Street in London last night. The 242-year-old brand entered administration and shops will shortly close

Debenhams on Oxford Street in London last night. The 242-year-old brand entered administration and shops will shortly close

Debenhams on Oxford Street in London last night. The 242-year-old brand entered administration and shops will shortly close

 

Boris Johnson said there was a 'compelling case' for the regional tiers as he faced a Commons showdown over his new coronavirus rules

Boris Johnson said there was a 'compelling case' for the regional tiers as he faced a Commons showdown over his new coronavirus rules

Boris Johnson last night overcame the largest Tory rebellion of his premiership for his new tier system to clear the Commons by 291 to 78, with abstaining Labour MPs getting the vote across the line 

‘Off for a cooked breakfast and a pint!’: Tier Two drinkers rejoice as lockdown ends while those in Tier Three are left pining for the pub 

England’s second national lockdown came to and end overnight, sparking a wave of excitement across social media as people prepare to return to the pubs – and landlords get set for a busy day serving ‘substantial meals’.

Social media users this morning rejoiced the ending of the month-long shutdown, which ended overnight.

The lockdown rules will be replaced by a new tiered system from today. The rules mean pubs in Tier 2 areas, including London and large parts of the south-east, can reopen.

Hours after the lockdown was lifted, social media users in Tier 2 were quick to show their readiness to return to the pubs.

But those in Tier 3, where pubs and restuarants can only open for takeaway, were left pining for a pint.

One Twitter user, Neil Hughes, said: ‘I’m off for a cooked breakfast and a pint.’

Nay Evans, said: ‘End of lockdown, we made it. See use (sic) in the pub for 5 Guinness and a Cesar salad.’

Another said: ‘Lockdown is over, you can catch me at the pub with my friends tonight, unless you are in Tier 2 or 3.’ 

 

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Gym boss Andreas Michli, 34, was mobbed by supporters tonight as he threw his doors open on the stroke of midnight.

The owner was fined £67,000 and taken to court last month by Haringey Council after a stand-off with more than 30 police officers over three days at the Zone Gym in Wood Green, North London.

But last night he was back in business and welcomed around 60 people through his doors – and boasted the prime minister had been swayed by his protest.

As crowds queued up to get back on the treadmills, Mr Michli told MailOnline: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister’s mind about allowing gyms to open.

‘He saw what was going on and he listened. But the war goes on and now it’s not just about gyms anymore. I feel like I’m fighting on behalf of businesses of all kind.

‘So many business owners are suffering, so it’s great to see the buzz here tonight and the excitement now that we are opening up again.’

Among those first in the door was personal trainer Sophia Sammee, 35, from Friern Barnet, North London who said: ‘You can see the happiness in people’s faces here tonight.

‘Everyone is buzzing that lockdown is over.’ This gym has been my home and I really wanted to be here on the stroke of midnight. Andreas was brave to stay open and I was proud to support him.’

Paralegal Dennis Adjei-Sarpong, 26, said: ‘There are so many smiles here tonight now that this place is back open. People just want to get lost in their work-outs and their fitness again. I myself can’t wait to hit the weights. It’s a great moment.’   

Mr Michli clocked up a fortune in fixed penalty notices only to rip them up on his Instagram channel and invite members back to his gym -only for magistrates to close him down.

Despite breaking the law during lockdown he says he had been swamped with messages of support from well-wishers across the country.

‘I’m not paying the fine and if Haringey Council want the money then they will have to take me to court, because I’m not handing over a penny. I feel like the public have swayed behind me and it’s an incredible feeling.

Mr Michli told MailOnline: 'There's no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister's mind about allowing gyms to open'

Mr Michli told MailOnline: 'There's no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister's mind about allowing gyms to open'

Mr Michli told MailOnline: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister’s mind about allowing gyms to open’

The UK recorded another 13,430 coronavirus infections and 603 deaths in the past 24 hours as England exits shutdown

The UK recorded another 13,430 coronavirus infections and 603 deaths in the past 24 hours as England exits shutdown

The UK recorded another 13,430 coronavirus infections and 603 deaths in the past 24 hours as England exits shutdown

PM suffers biggest revolt of his premiership – but wins tiers vote  

Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. 

The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns.    

While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories – including Julian Lewis, who is suspended – made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. 

Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians. 

Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.

The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier’s authority continues to wane. 

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‘We were expecting a big crowd at twelve because we’ve had so many people saying on social media they wanted to be here for when the doors open.

‘We’ve had a lot of love and support from across the country backing us. Because we’re a 24-hour gym, it made sense to open on the stroke of midnight.’

Mr Michli has 1,200 members but social distancing rules mean he will be limited to 85 members in his gym at any one time.

‘We will be following the government guidelines relating to how many people can be on the premises at any one time. And we will be enforcing social distancing. Still it’s a big step back to normal life.’ 

Wild Wednesday is also expected to see a blitz of high street stores as people look to snap up gifts weeks out from Christmas.

It will be fuelled by a bargain bonanza from Debenhams which has slashed prices on handbags, shoes, boots, watches and dresses.

The chain has become the latest high street casualty and will be liquidated in the New Year after rescue talks with JD Sport fell through, drawing a line under 242 years of trading and jeopardising 12,000 jobs.   

Late Tuesday night there was a 20-minute wait ‘due to exceptional demand’ with over 300,000 trying to get on to the website at one point, and the total number of shoppers topping one million.

A bruising year for the retail sector amid the pandemic climaxed this week when both Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group collapsed. 

Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, tipped into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk. 

Meanwhile people on social media are today celebrating the end of lockdown and the start of Tier 2 restrictions in some areas – where pubs will be allowed to open again.

One Twitter user, Jo Mac, said: ‘And we are out of lockdown! Wohoooo!!! Who wants to come to the pub with me for a pint and a substantial meal?’ 

 Another said: ‘Woohoo!! Lockdown has ended. We are free to have a beer down the pub.

‘With a scotch egg of course. Do we have to sit at a table and use a knife and fork to eat it, or can we stand at the bar?’

Another said: ‘Lockdown is over, you can catch me at the pub with my friends tonight, unless you are in Tier 2 or 3.’ 

Now you CAN hug your granny: Ministers REVERSE ban on hugging elderly loved ones in care homes this Christmas as they roll out rapid coronavirus tests 

Care home residents will finally be able to hug their families again, ministers announced last night.

A national roll-out of rapid tests means relatives who are free of Covid will be allowed visits for the first time since March.

Each care home resident will be able to nominate two loved ones to see them twice a week, regardless of which coronavirus tier they are in.

More than a million testing kits have already been sent out to almost 400 large care homes and the first visits can take place today.

The announcement is a major victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign for families to be reunited by Christmas.

‘This is a game-changing moment for visits,’ said Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum.

‘It will be embraced across the country by care home residents, their loved ones and providers.’

Guidelines issued by the Department of Health last night say the ‘default position’ is visits should go ahead in all tiers – unless there is a coronavirus outbreak in the care home.

Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans, causing some elderly to ‘give up on life’. 

Care home visits have been tightly regulated all year to try and reduce the risk of people spreading Covid-19 in the homes, where residents are extremely vulnerable to the disease (Pictured: A woman visits her step-father at a home in Falmouth, Cornwall last week)

Care home visits have been tightly regulated all year to try and reduce the risk of people spreading Covid-19 in the homes, where residents are extremely vulnerable to the disease (Pictured: A woman visits her step-father at a home in Falmouth, Cornwall last week)

Care home visits have been tightly regulated all year to try and reduce the risk of people spreading Covid-19 in the homes, where residents are extremely vulnerable to the disease (Pictured: A woman visits her step-father at a home in Falmouth, Cornwall last week)

But in a major shift in policy, Matt Hancock declared all residents will be allowed face-to-face indoor visits by Christmas. The Health Secretary said: ‘I know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long. The separation has been painful but has protected residents and staff from this deadly virus.

‘I’m so pleased we are now able to help reunite families and more safely allow people to have meaningful contact with their loved ones by Christmas.’

The rapid tests will be delivered to all the country’s 16,000 care homes over the course of the month. On arrival, visitors will receive a lateral flow test, which gives highly-accurate results within 30 minutes.

A negative result means they will be allowed indoors and can hold hands or hug their loved one as long as they are wearing PPE.

Over the past three weeks, the Mail’s Christmas campaign has drawn attention to the catastrophic impact of visiting bans on the mental and physical health of residents.

Tens of thousands of the vulnerable and elderly have been forced to die alone, robbed of a last loving hug from their families.

Caroline Abrahams of the charity Age UK said: ‘The Daily Mail’s campaign has highlighted an issue that means everything to hundreds of thousands of older people and their families, and it’s clear it has successfully moved many hearts, as well as minds.

‘It’s really good news that the Government has significantly shifted its position on visiting and we sincerely hope that their new guidance, plus the additional practical support they are offering to care homes, will lead to many families being reunited with their loved ones after an awfully long time.’

Campaign group Rights for Residents said last night: ‘There is no longer an excuse to keep families locked out.’

The Department of Health said it would issue an extra 46million items of PPE, such as face masks and gowns, to care homes for visitors to wear. They said families should minimise contact to cut the risk of transmission.

Fiona Carragher, a director at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Hugs, a smile from a familiar face, holding hands, feeling joy again – these are hugely important, as is the essential care that family carers provide to people with dementia. Quite literally keeping people alive and tethered to the world.

‘We pass on our massive thanks to the Daily Mail for amplifying this absolutely tragic issue. With such a harrowing year, this news of a more joyful Christmas has never been more needed.’

Martin Green of Care England, which represents care providers, warned that homes still faced a ‘huge administrative and logistical burden’ in order to allow visits before Christmas. He criticised the Government for failing to allow provision for the extra staffing that may be required.

Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans. Pictured, Dave Stallard at his care home in West Sussex being visited by his wife Irene

Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans. Pictured, Dave Stallard at his care home in West Sussex being visited by his wife Irene

Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans. Pictured, Dave Stallard at his care home in West Sussex being visited by his wife Irene

He added: ‘There seems to be no understanding that this puts a huge administrative and logistical burdens on care providers.

‘There is all this extra work being put on people and somehow they think there is a bottomless pit of resources available to deal with all these things.’

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said care homes faced a ‘mammoth task’ to allow family visits before Christmas and many relatives were likely to lose out.

He said: ‘How we are going to get everybody through by appointment to see their loved ones before Christmas is a big challenge for us. We want the visiting to happen, there is no question about that.

‘But I wish the Government had said ‘we will do our best to do this asap’ rather than before Christmas because logistically I don’t know how we can get everybody through safely in the time we have got left before Christmas.

‘My big fear is homes could be blamed for not doing it. It is not our fault. We want this to happen but we haven’t got the tests yet and there is a lot to get through.

‘It seems like the Government has placed us in the firing line if it goes wrong.’ 

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Boris Johnson’s post-lockdown tiers come into force despite biggest-ever Tory rebellion against him – as 55 of his backbenchers vote against his plans putting prospect of future lockdowns in jeopardy 

By James Tapsfield, political editor for MailOnline

Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. 

The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns.    

While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories – including Julian Lewis, who is suspended – made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. 

Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians. 

Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.

The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier’s authority continues to wane. 

But Dominic Raab attempted to brush aside suggestions that the Government was worried about the scale of the revolt despite Mr Johnson personally begging dozens of Tories to fall into line as they went through the Noe lobby.

The Foreign Secretary instead took aim at Labour for abstaining from the crunch vote, saying tonight: ‘We listened to MPs on all sides of the House, we passed this vote with a majority of over 200. 

Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, including from 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady (pictured)

Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, including from 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady (pictured)

Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, including from 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady (pictured)

Tory council launches legal challenge against Tier 3 decision 

A Tory-led  local authority is challenging the Government’s decision to put it into Tier 3 after the current lockdown restrictions end.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council  said it had sent a judicial review pre-action letter to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Stratford is the constiruency of Nadhim Zahawi, the newly appointed minister in charge of rolling out the Covid vaccines. 

Tony Jefferson, leader of the council, said: ‘This is not an action we take lightly, however none of the data we see warrants Stratford-on-Avon District being placed in Tier 3. It is very disappointing that the Government did not use much greater granularity in deciding on tiers.

‘I know that they have looked at a number of factors including the rates in all age groups, particularly older people who are more vulnerable to the virus; and we have to take into consideration the pressure on our local hospitals and NHS services.

‘However, none of the metrics for our district warrant it being placed in Tier 3. The decision to put Stratford district in Tier 3 therefore appears arbitrary and irrational.’ 

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The most striking thing about these numbers is that the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer abstained on the biggest issue facing this country today as we go through this pandemic and he’s got nothing to say about it, no leadership, he doesn’t know what he thinks or what the country should do.’   

The day was spent desperately trying to peel off opponents, with the premier hinting that many low-infection areas could by brought out of the toughest tiers at the next review on December 16.  

He also offered a ‘one-off’ payment of £1,000 to ‘wet’ pubs – that do not serve food – this month as recognition of ‘how hard they’ve been hit by this virus’. In a last-gasp Zoom call with mutinous Tories before the division, Mr Johnson warned they must not be like children in the back of a car saying ‘are we nearly there yet?’

Winding up the debate, Health Secretary Matt Hancock choked back tears as he referred to the death of his step grandfather from Covid in Liverpool last month, and warned the government could not ease off the restrictions too much. ‘We’ve got to beat this, we’ve got to beat it together,’ he pleaded.

Earlier, MPs lined up in the House to slam the Government plans despite the PM urging them to back his ‘compelling’ case for his new post-lockdown tiers.Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price summed up the feeling for many by storming: ‘These decisions are being taken really on the back of a fag packet but are destroying whole swathes of the hospitality industry.’ 

The strength of feeling among critical backbenchers even led typically backbenchers to defy the PM, with former cabinet minister Jeremy Wright voting against the Government ‘for the first time in 10 years’. There had been talk of up to 100 Conservatives ready to rebel – but this afternoon the numbers were whittled down to an extent.   

A government spokesman said: ‘We welcome tonight’s vote which endorses our Winter Plan, brings an end to the national restrictions and returns England to a tiered system.

‘This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control. We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.’

Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories, urged the government to ‘take on board’ the criticism. ‘We very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing,’ the former chief whip said.  

Who are the Tory MPs who defied Boris Johnson and voted against the tier system? 

Some 53 Conservative MPs defied Boris Johnson and voted against the Prime Minister’s new coronavirus tier system. 

They are:  

Adam Afriyie (Windsor)

Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield)

Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)

Paul Bristow (Peterborough)

Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells)

James Daly (Bury North)

Philip Davies (Shipley)

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) 

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) 

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock)

Richard Drax (South Dorset)

Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)

Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) 

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil)

Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) 

Chris Green (Bolton West)

Damian Green (Ashford)

Kate Griffiths (Burton)

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) 

Philip Hollobone (Kettering)

David Jones (Clwyd West) 

Julian Knight (Solihull)

Robert Largan (High Peak) 

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) 

Chris Loder (West Dorset) 

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet)

Anthony Mangnall (Totnes)

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) 

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) 

Esther McVey (Tatton) 

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle)

Robbie Moore (Keighley)

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)  

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) 

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) 

John Redwood (Wokingham)

Mary Robinson (Cheadle) 

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) 

Henry Smith (Crawley)

Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge)  

Desmond Swayne (New Forest West)

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) 

Matt Vickers (Stockton South)

Christian Wakeford (Bury South)

Charles Walker (Broxbourne)

Jamie Wallis (Bridgend)

David Warburton (Conservative – Somerton and Frome) 

William Wragg (Conservative – Hazel Grove)

Jeremy Wright (Conservative – Kenilworth and Southam)

A further two Tory MPs, Steve Baker and Robert Syms, acted as tellers for those MPs voting against the measures.   

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The vote means most areas of England will now go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers, with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector. 

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions. 

As he wooed his restive party earlier, Mr Johnson insisted that the government will be ‘sensitive’ to local situations – hinting that areas with low infection rates will not be lumped together in future with other nearby hotspots. 

He said the next review on December 16 will be conducted based on ‘as much granular detail as we can’. ‘We will try to be a sensitive as possible to local effort and local achievement,’ he said.

MP said whips were working hard during the day assuring Conservatives with constituencies in high tiers that they will be downgraded within weeks, while London Tories were pushing for a private commitment that the city will not be upgraded to Tier 3. 

But Sir Keir warned Conservative MPs their hopes of being downgraded will be dashed, as Tier 2 will ‘struggle’ to hold infections down and Mr Johnson always ‘overpromises and under-delivers’. ‘That is not going to happen,’ he swiped. 

The Prime Minister also tried to allay backbench fears for hospitality businesses by announcing that ‘wet’ pubs – which rely on drinks to make their living – will be entitled to £1,000 payments to help them get through this month.   

Many Tories were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the measures, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the ‘wheels were coming off’ the policy. 

It is understood the government has another dashboard that includes more ‘granular’ information on 40 areas of the economy. Sources dismissed the idea it is ‘secret’, saying it only contains material already ‘publicly available’ – although they insisted it will not be published. 

One angry MP told MailOnline: ‘The reason it won’t be published is because it supports our case not theirs.’  

Laying out his case that there is a ‘compelling’ need for the new regional tiers, Mr Johnson stressed: ‘This is not another lockdown. Nor is this the renewal of existing measures in England.

‘The tiers that I’m proposing would mean that from tomorrow everyone in England, including those in Tier 3, will be free to leave their homes for any reason.

‘And when they do they will find the shops open for Christmas, the hairdressers open, the nail bars open, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools open.’  

Challenged by a series of MPs – including ex-Cabinet minister Greg Clark, who represents Tunbridge Wells – over the harsh treatment their areas were receiving, Mr Johnson said: ‘As we go forward… the Government will look at how we can reflect as closely as possible the reality of what is happening on the ground for local people, looking at the incidence of the disease, looking at the human geography and spread of the pandemic, and indeed the progress that areas are making in getting the virus down.

‘We will try to be as sensitive as possible to local effort and to local achievement in bringing the pandemic under control.’

He added: ‘We will look in granular detail at local incidents, look at the human geography of the pandemic and take account of exactly what is happening every two weeks, as I say.’ 

Mr Johnson also took aim at Labour for having ‘no credible plan’ to tackle coronavirus.

He said: ‘We’re trying to look after pubs, restaurants, businesses across this entire country and no-one feels the anguish of those businesses more than this Government.

‘I do think however it is extraordinary that in spite of the barrage of criticism that we have, we have no credible plan from the party opposite, indeed we have no view on the way ahead.

‘It’s a quite extraordinary thing that tonight, to the best of my knowledge, (Sir Keir) who said he’s always going to act in the national interest, has told his party to sit on its hands and to abstain in the vote tonight.’

But despite his pleas, Mr Johnson still faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, which will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from tomorrow.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, one of the rebel leaders, was among those opposing the Government. 

He said he was ‘going to have to vote no tonight to send a message’ to ministers, adding: ‘People like me have not just been looking for economic analysis, we’ve been looking for serious analysis of these harms and benefits from the Government’s policies in the context of coronavirus.’ 

He went on: ‘Here we stand at a profoundly dangerous moment, heading into infringements on our liberties around vaccination and testing which we would never normally tolerate and so therefore I find with huge reluctance, I’m going to have to vote no tonight to send a message to the Government.’ 

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful Tory 1922 commitee, was among those who condemned the tiers plan.

He said the Trafford borough in his Altrincham and Sale constituency had been placed in Tier 3 ‘unfairly’. ‘I believe the government has not made that compelling case,’ he said. ‘The benefit of the doubt that this House has extended in March and since is harder.’

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