LONDONERS who fled the capital before lockdown last night were today slammed as “totally irresponsible” by a fuming Matt Hancock.
The city’s stations were described as “war zones” as locals skipped town before the tough new Tier 4 lockdown came into effect at midnight.
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St Pancras Station was packed last night[/caption]
Matt Hancock today blasted the crowds that fled London before lockdown last night[/caption]
Traffic is seen on London’s A40 last night as new coronavirus restrictions came into force at midnight[/caption]
People wait for trains at a packed Paddington station[/caption]
Boris Johnson begged Brits to “stay local” this Christmas in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus as a new, more infectious strain of the deadly bug emerged.
Cancelling the festive season for millions, the PM warned the tough restrictions in London and the South East were needed to stop the new variant – which is believed to be about 70% more infectious than the initial strain.
Professor Chris Whitty last night begged people to stay at home yesterday evening as the rules were unveiled, warning: “If you have packed a bag, unpack it.”
Yet within hours there were long queues of traffic on roads out of London and chaotic crushes at railway terminals as people fled to avoid the brutal new restrictions.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock today slammed the scenes – sighing as he was shown footage of the busy travel terminals.
He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “This was clearly totally irresponsible behaviour.”
EXTRA COPS CALLED IN
And then appearing on the The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he added: “We have all got a responsibility.
“We in Government of course have a responsibility, but so does every single person.
“The plea that I have is that people will play their part, because it is only by acting, all of us, that we can get this under control.”
British Transport Police are now expected to deploy additional officers to ensure only essential journeys are taking place.
Last night in St Pancras station, hundreds of people were filmed rushing towards barriers to board the trains leaving the capital.
Similar frantic scenes were pictured at Paddington station and King’s Cross.
Traffic on the A40 leaving London was jammed in the hours after Mr Johnson’s bombshell announcement.
Commmuter Harriet Clugston, who filmed the scenes at St Pancras, compared it to Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War when people were desperate to flee before the Viet Cong invaded.
She tweeted: “Last train out of Saigon. Queue at St Pancras as we wait to board the Leeds-bound train.”
“As expected, train is crammed,” she later wrote.
Long queues of traffic on the A40 in London after Boris Johnson’s Tier 4 announcement[/caption]
Chris Whitty told Londoners not to flee the capital[/caption]
Tier 4 restrictions come into force at midnight[/caption]
St Pancras Station was packed last night[/caption]
Data from the ONS shows that Covid cases are rising across England but in areas plunged into Tier 4 today, infections have soared during December[/caption]
The new stain is spreading rapidly accounting for 28% of cases in November. But by December 9, around 60% of cases were down to the new strain[/caption]
Harriet said that officials announced that “social distancing will not be possible” in the packed train.
Another Twitter user posted: “Mate St Pancras looked like a war zone tonight. Euston very tame in comparison.”
Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy added: “The message is clear – to combat this virus, you must follow the guidance and stay at home.
“At stations we will be deploying extra staff, announcements will make the law clear and additional BTP officers are in place to ensure that only essential journeys take place.”
A British Transport Police spokesperson said: “As has been the case throughout the pandemic our officers will continue to be highly-visible, patrolling services and stations on the rail network in tier 4 locations and nationwide throughout the Christmas period.
“Officers will continue supporting rail staff in engaging with passengers and reminding those who do need to travel to wear face coverings.
“We hope that the public will continue to act responsibly and play their part in helping to protect themselves, and each other, by following the guidance and restrictions set out by the Government, as well as complying with the requirement to wear face coverings.”
What are the new Tier 4 rules?
Tier 4 will include:
- The Tier 4 will be similar to the November lockdown – with all but essential shops closed
- The “stay at home” message is expected to be law
- The plan to allow Brits to form social bubbles over five days will be ditched, with only those in Tiers 1 to 3 allowed to form a bubble on Christmas Day itself
- International travel abroad is not advised – but won’t be banned
- People should not enter or leave Tier 4
- People can only meet one person from another household in an outside space
- They won’t be reviewed until 30 December – after Christmas
- Support bubbles will be still allowed
- Weddings will be banned except for extreme cases – like those who are terminally ill
Travel and mixing households are banned under the new highest level tier – with families elsewhere only allowed to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ on December 25 itself, the PM told the nation.
Mr Johnson told around 18 million Brits in Tier 4 the tough crackdown will help save lives with a new mutant strain of the virus sweeping through the south of England.
He said: “Yes, Christmas this year will be very different, but we must be realistic.
“We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases. “
The PM warned the nation he could not ignore the terrifying new strain and vowed: “We have to act to protect the public.”
Mr Johnson said: “As Prime Minister, it is my duty to take the difficult decisions, to do what is right to protect the people of this country.
“Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned.
“I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.”
He said people would be “disappointed” but vowed he was following the science as a result of the new rapidly-spreading strain.
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The PM said he “bitterly regretted” cancelling holidays for millions of people. The new restrictions would be reviewed again on December 30.
People throughout England are advised to “stay local” and avoid overseas travel, while those in Tier 4 will only be able to go abroad for essential business.
There were 27,000 positive Covid-19 cases recorded today, the latest stats showed.
Boris Johnson has cancelled Christmas for millions of Brits[/caption]
Professor Whitty urged people not to pack their bags and flee the capital[/caption]