Frenzy on the high street as panicking Christmas shoppers have only hours to buy presents before Tier 4 lockdown

CROWDS flocked to the high street to do some frantic last-minute Christmas shopping before the tier 4 restrictions are imposed at midnight.

Desperate shoppers hit the stores for gifts after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced severe measures would be introduced across London and large parts of the south-east.

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The tough measures will see all non-essential shops shut, a “stay at home” order for Christmas Day and harsh travel restrictions.

Johnson outlined the measures in a press conference at just after 4pm on Saturday, leaving anyone who still had presents to get only a few hours to get everything sorted.

Pictures show Oxford Street, in central London, rammed as people desperately tried to get their hands on presents for loved ones or stocking up on food for Christmas dinner.

Long queues were also seen outside stores as people waited to get inside.

Train stations, like St Pancras and Paddington, were also heaving as people desperately tried to leave London ahead of the midnight deadline.

Many Brits were left fuming at the cancellation of Christmas after millions shelled out for food, booze and gifts.

Travel and different households mixing will be 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 today.

The areas in the new Tier 4 from tonight at midnight

Surrey (excluding Waverley)
The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.
Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough
Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).

Click the links below to find out more…

  • Boris Johnson today cancelled Christmas for millions as he put London, the South East and East in Tier 4 lockdown
  • A new mutant strain of Covid-19 is becoming the "dominant variant" of the disease and may be up to 70% more contagious
  • All Brits have been told to stay local during the festive season
  • Christmas bubbles in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 have been cut to just 24 hours on December 25
  • Non-essential shops and gyms in Tier 4 areas must be closed from midnight
  • Those in Tier 4 will be able to meet only one other person outdoors – but must not stay overnight from home
  • Wales will go into lockdown from tonight and people can 'bubble' for Christmas day only
  • Scotland banned travel from the rest of the UK to stop the new strain spreading and will go into the toughest lockdown measures on Boxing Day

Others had been looking forward to seeing friends and family over the Christmas holiday after a tough year due to the coronavirus.

One devastated user said: "I'm sorry but my family have spent money on food for my family who are all coming in the next few days.

"I see my family twice a year and I am absolutely devastated like I cannot explain how upsetting and disheartening this is."

Brits are expected to splurge £1.2billion on last-minute Christmas bargains on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Customers headed for the shops early this morning to stock up on gifts, food and decorations ahead of the big day.

It's thought up to 8.5 million of us will visit stores before following the Government's advice to isolate ahead of meeting friends and family inChristmas bubbles.

And with people avoiding shops later this week, traders are expecting their biggest day of the year.

Stores will stay open late to help social distancing.

Council officials installed hand sanitiser posts in Kent's shopping districts.

The county, which is in Tier 3, is currently the UK's worst-hit area for Covid.

But it didn't deter shoppers who visited a bustling Christmas market in Dartford.

The streets of Nottingham – which is also in Tier 3 – are heaving today as customers in masks stock up on presents for loved ones.

And huge queues built outside supermarkets from first thing this morning.

Aldi in Southampton was heaving before the sun rose, while at Costco in Manchester, customers could be seen pushing trolleys stacked with supplies for the next two weeks.

Even in Tier 3 areas, non-essential shops can remain open.

But there'll be nowhere for shoppers to rest their feet and enjoy a mulled wine, as all restaurants, pubs and bars must stay shut.

Officials at the Centre for Retail Research, said: “People don’t want to shop on the last days before Christmas so are buying a lot now.

“Some haven’t even started so are panicking and getting it in one go.”

Sir Cary Cooper at the Manchester Business School said: “The risk averse are obeying the Government and shopping now so they get five days clear.

“Other people will listen to the advice but make their own decision on when to shop.”

Office staff also got creative for Christmas dos.

In Tier 2 areas, just six people can meet outside in a pub garden. – and 'substantial' meals must be ordered.

As a result, scores of Brits staged videocall parties last night. Some bosses delivered alcohol to staff.

Worker Steve Harwood tweeted: “It’s a Zoom birthday lunch with the office followed by a Zoom office party. Cheers.”

Many will stay at home from tomorrow as part of the Government's new directives on a safe Christmas.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If you’re visiting others over Christmas we are asking you in the five days beforehand to reduce the number of people you’re in contact with to as few as possible.”

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