Some 44 million people in England are living under the toughest Tier 4 restrictions in a bid to help tackle the spread of an infectious new strain of Covid-19.
The measures - affecting 78 per cent of the country’s population - have been imposed against a backdrop of increasing infections, hospital admissions and a new more contagious variant in the UK.
Asked whether Tier 4 curbs work, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is down to people’s behaviour, frankly. What matters is, yes of course, the rules that we put in place, but it is also about how people act.
“And frankly what I would say is this: it is critical that everybody in the country does all that they can to reduce the spread of the virus.”
He also warned that Tier 3 areas with rising coronavirus cases could also face tougher restrictions, warning of “some difficult weeks ahead”.
What is Tier 4?
Tier 4 is the toughest level of restrictions brought in across England to try and slow the spread of a new variant of coronavirus.
The first areas that were put into Tier 4 on December 20 were London, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey excluding Waverley, Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings, and East of England areas including Bedford, central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Essex excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring.
The second group of areas that moved into Tier 4 from Boxing Day were Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex which weren’t already in the highest tier, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest.
On December 30, Matt Hancock announced that another 24 million people were being moved into Tier 4. The North East, as well as parts of the Midlands, the North West, and the South West of England, were among the regions affected.
A “stay at home” message in law is in place, apart from limited exemptions such as work, education, healthcare, childcare and exercise.
People are advised not to enter Tier 4 areas and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.
Household mixing is limited to one person being able to meet with one other person in a public space outside, with exemptions for support bubbles and for childcare bubbles and for children whose parents have separated.
For the clinically extremely vulnerable, people who have been shielding in the past, the guidance from November is reimposed which broadly says that these individuals should not to go to work, limit time outside the home and take exercise outside at less busy time.
People currently not at home in Tier 4 are also asked to travel back.
Non-essential shops have to close, as well as indoor leisure such as gyms, indoor entertainment including cinemas, bowling alleys and casinos, and the personal care sector including hairdressers and nailbars.
People are not permitted to travel abroad on holiday in Tier 4 areas.
Outdoor sport will be able to continue and there will be no restrictions on exercise.
What will happen if people break the rules?
The public have been asked to comply with the rules, while more police officers have been deployed to help enforce rules.
Have other parts of the UK changed their rules?
Yes, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have all strengthened their restrictions.
In Northern Ireland, a six-week lockdown started on Boxing Day, with non-essential retail and close-contact services closed and hospitality outlets limited to takeaway services.
In the week following Christmas, a form of curfew was in operation from 8pm, with shops closed from that time and all indoor and outdoor gatherings prohibited until 6am.
Mainland Scotland entered Level 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, with the Scottish Government intending the increased measures to last for three weeks.
Non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants will have to shut except for takeaways, while only essential travel will be allowed.
Tough new restrictions that were eased in Wales for Christmas Day were re-imposed on Saturday.
Non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres have been forced to close, with people told to stay at home and only permitted to travel for “essential reasons”.