Huge crowds of Christmas shoppers fill UK cities despite virus fears

High streets have been flooded with shoppers today as people headed out to buy Christmas presents despite fears about rising coronavirus infection rates.

With just two weekends left between now and Christmas Day, there were crowds on the streets of major cities as shoppers came out in force.

Those in London had been warned about the need to continue to follow social distancing rules amid fears case rates are soaring in the capital.

Positive test results have risen in 28 of the city’s 32 boroughs, taking the total number of cases for the week to 21,672 – a 33% leap from the last seven-day period.

Londoners have been warned their city could be placed in tier three next week, with pubs and restaurants forced to close except for takeaways.

Despite the fears, thousands of people headed out to the major shopping areas to buy last minute gifts.

Oxford Street and Regents Street – which has been temporarily pedestrianised to help with social distancing – were heaving for the second weekend in a row.

Last week was the first time shoppers could go into physical stores on a weekend since lockdown and billions were spent by those enjoying the relaxed rules.

Another £1.7billion was expected to be spent in shops this weekend with 11 million Brits spending £3million a minute over nine hours of trading.

Other virus hotspots including parts of Kent and London’s worst affected borough, Havering, were also busy with shoppers.

In the north, where infection rates have been falling after lockdown, the streets of Newcastle, Birmingham and Leeds were full of crowds.

All three areas are currently in tier three of restrictions but leaders hope they may be moved out of the harshest tier if case numbers continue to decline.

Shoppers have been spurred out into stores amid fears that online deliveries won’t reach people in time for Christmas.

Delivery firms have warned they are experiencing huge demand due to the pandemic which is causing delays across the board.

Some shops have moved forward the date by which orders need to be placed in order to guarantee a Christmas delivery.

There are also concerns that some goods may run out as it gets closer to Christmas. Shops were hit by stockpiling earlier in the pandemic and it’s feared there could be similar scenes – particularly as tighter restrictions become more likely.

The UK recorded another 519 Covid-19 deaths and 21,502 cases in the latest 24 hour period as infection rates continue to grow post-lockdown.

People have been warned they should rethink their Christmas plans, even if they comply with the festive bubble rules as it may now no longer be safe for groups of families to mix.

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