Suffolk and parts of north Essex have escaped the new Tier 4 restrictions - but changes have been made to tighten the coronavirus rules over Christmas.

London, the South East and parts of the East of England will enter a new Tier 4 level of restrictions from midnight, the prime minister has announced.

It comes after scientists confirmed a new Covid-19 variant, which has been found in Ipswich this week, is spreading more rapidly in the south of the country.

The R Rate in the East of England has also grown to the highest in the country - going above the national average with infections increasing between 4% and 6% every day.

The new Tier 4 restrictions will be broadly equivalent to national rules which were introduced in England in November, with residents told to stay home and non-essential retail and indoor gyms forced to close.

Suffolk and some parts of northern Essex - Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford - will remain under Tier 2 restrictions as announced on Thursday, avoiding the tougher rules which will come into force.

What are the rules for Christmas?

  • In Suffolk, Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford, one household can mix with two other households on Christmas Day, but not the original five days which were planned.
  • People in these Tier 2 areas have also been encouraged to stay local and will not be allowed to host people who live in a Tier 4 area.
  • All households in Tier 4 will not be allowed to mix at all - even on Christmas Day - apart from anyone who is in a support bubble.
  • People who are self-isolating should not join a Christmas bubble. If someone tests positive, or develops coronavirus symptoms up to 48 hours after the Christmas bubble last met, everyone has to self-isolate.

Prof Chris Whitty, the government's chief medical officer, reiterated that people should "keep it small, keep it short, keep it local and remember the vulnerable are vulnerable" over Christmas.

He advised people should minimise contact with grandparents, keeping it at a distance and for the "shortest period you can".

Prof Whitty added: "Because what you really want is to get to the point when your grandmother has been vaccinated, ideally when you and people around you have been vaccinated, taking the risk right down. At that point we're in a different place.

"But at this point in time, at this really, really critical and dangerous time - pre-vaccine but high transmission - I repeat it: keep it small, keep it short, keep it local and remember the vulnerable.

"And short should mean as short as you can manage with a reasonable social interaction."

Have restrictions changed in Suffolk?

No - Suffolk remains under Tier 2 restrictions and the following guidelines are still in place.

What is Tier 2 and what does it mean for you? (1)

  • No mixing of households indoors aside from support bubbles. The ‘rule of six’ will be permitted outdoors.
  • People are encouraged to reduce the number of journeys they make and to avoid travelling into Tier 3 and 4 areas except for reasons of education or work.
  • Pubs and bars will remain closed unless operating as restaurants, with alcohol only served as part of a “substantial meal” until 10pm, before venues must close at 11pm.
  • All retail, leisure and personal care services – including hairdressers and beauty salons – are able to be open.
  • Overnight stays are permitted for those in the same household or support bubble.
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors but not indoors if there is any interaction between two different households. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.
  • Large events including sport and live performances are open but limited to 50% capacity or 2,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors.
  • Places of worship can open, but people must not interact with anyone outside their household or support bubble. 15 guests will be allowed at weddings and civil partnerships, increasing to 30 for funerals.
  • You must continue to follow Tier 2 rules when you travel to a Tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in Tier 3 and 4 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.