Londoners face being arrested if they try and leave city after midnight

Londoners have been banned from leaving the city and may face being arrested if they try to travel to other parts of the country for Christmas.

The strict new travel rules come into place after midnight as the capital is plunged into a tier four lockdown.

Anyone thinking of leaving has been advised to ‘unpack their bags’ amid fears Londoners could spread the mutant strain of the virus around the country.

Tier four rules state people should not enter or leave the area and residents must not stay overnight away from home.

Those planning to leave before the deadline won’t be breaking the law but have been strongly advised not to travel.

The chief medical officer Chris Whitty was asked at the Downing Street press conference what he would say to people who may have already packed their bags and are ready to leave London and the South East tonight.

He said: ‘My short answer would be, please unpack it at this stage. The reason for that is if you look at the South East, if you look at the East of England and look at London, there has been a really dramatic increase in the proportion of the cases that we see when we do the screening tests, which are not absolutely exact but pretty accurate, which would imply that in the South East, 43% of the virus is now this new variant.

‘In the East of England it’s 59% and in London 62%. The numbers may vary slightly but those are broadly right. And those have gone up very very fast, over the last few weeks. So this has really gone incredibly quickly. They are much lower in other areas of the country.’

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