Tough new coronavirus restrictions have begun in the U.K. with Scotland and Northern Ireland under tighter measures to try to halt a new variant of the virus that is believed to spread more quickly.
Measures that were relaxed for Christmas day in Wales have also been re-imposed.
The number of people under the country’s top level of restrictions — Tier 4 — increased by 6 million on Saturday to 24 million people, around 43% of Britain’s population. No indoor mixing of households is allowed and only essential travel permitted. Gyms, pools, hairdressers and stores selling nonessential goods have been ordered to close.
A further 570 deaths from COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 70.195. More than 32,700 new cases of the disease were reported on Christmas day.
In her annual Christmas address, Queen Elizabeth II, who has spent much of the year isolating at Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, delivered a heartfelt message of hope praising the “indomitable spirit” of those who have risen “magnificently” to the challenges of the pandemic.
The queen’s address carried added poignancy given the great sadness and upheaval that many families have experienced in the U.K., which has Europe’s second-highest death toll behind Italy.