THOUSANDS of Brits have hit the pubs for their final hurrah of the year – as 10 million more across London and the south-east go into Tier 3 lockdown.
Scores of people enjoyed impromptu Christmas parties last night, while dozens of shoppers visited restaurants after buying gifts for loved ones.
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Thousands of pubs, restaurants and bars have now shut across London and the south-eastCredit: Reuters
Brits went out on the town ahead of new Tier 3 measures Credit: London News Pictures
Two friends danced together in the street at kicking-out time last nightCredit: Reuters
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire would be put under Tier 3 restrictions at midnight.
Some businesses in the city opened their doors from 9am on Tuesday morning to offload pints for as little as 99p in a bid to clear stock before midnight.
Drinkers visited pubs across the capital early in the morning to make the most out of their time out.
One group of friends enjoyed their first round at 10.30am in a Wetherspoon in south-west London.
One of the last big events was the PDC William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Outdoor tables in Soho’s London were busy last nightCredit: Gary Stone – The Sun
People gathered to enjoy a final drink together Credit: Gary Stone – The Sun
Pubs and bars have now shutCredit: 2020 Martyn Wheatley / i-Images
The pub remained busy serving drinkers their last pint in a pub for 2020.
And during the evening, many Brits have flocked to meet pals.
Pubs and bars filled up with Londoners enduring the freezing weather to sip a pint outside.
Many were seen in high spirits enjoying a festive night out in the busy Soho area. Queues built outside bars and restaurants in the area.
People put on their warmest coats and hats to sit outside and have a pizzaCredit: W8MEDIA
Some appeared to be making the most of last-minute festive celebrationsCredit: Reuters
10 million more people are now in Tier 3Credit: Aaron Chown
Pubs stopped serving at 10pm last night – although punters could enjoy drinks until 11pmCredit: London News Pictures
In Putney, South London, The Green Man, which boasts Britain’s biggest heated beer garden, was fully booked.
A barmaid there said: “We’re full from 5pm, inside and out.
“People have been calling up to book for their last chance to visit a pub before Christmas.”
A restaurant boss in Wandsworth, South London, said: “People are bringing bookings forward.”
As the end of the evening approached, friends gathered in Leicester Square, LondonCredit: London News Pictures
Cops started patrolling the streets as the night drew to a closeCredit: W8MEDIA
As the clock ticked towards 11pm, police and enforcement officers could be seen on patrolCredit: W8MEDIA
A couple shared a sweet moment at the end of the eveningCredit: EPA
Under new rules, only businesses offering takeaway and delivery will be allowed to remain open.
People in Tier 3 are not allowed to meet up with anyone from outside their household, except for in outdoor public places such as parks.
Cops encouraged punters to head home at 11pmCredit: Aaron Chown
Drinkers enjoyed pub grub outside – despite the chillCredit: 2020 Martyn Wheatley / i-Images
It could be the last night friends can meet in 2020 – as Government officials consider axing plans to relax Christmas restrictionsCredit: London News Pictures
Streets in central London were packed with people making the most of a last drink with palsCredit: W8MEDIA
The Health Secretary said on Monday afternoon: “When the virus is growing exponentially, there is not a moment to spare.”
“Hospitals across the countries of Essex and Kent are already under pressure, and we know the doubling of cases will be mirrored in hospital admissions, and it only takes a few doublings for the NHS to be overwhelmed,” Mr Hancock said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “This is incredibly disappointing for our businesses who have suffered so much already this year.
“But it’s clear that the virus is accelerating in the wrong direction once again across London and the lives of Londoners are at risk.”
Pavements in London were packed with people Credit: W8MEDIA
Many ended festive shopping trips with a drinkCredit: London News Pictures
Bars and pubs in the capital hosted customers on pavements Credit: Reuters
A Wetherspoons in London was offloading pints of real ale for 99pCredit: W8MEDIA
It comes as a new strain of coronavirus which spreads even faster has been identified in large parts of England.
Mr Hancock warned a new “variant” has been discovered in up to 60 places across the UK.
The World Health Organisation has been informed of the alarming news.
In Essex, Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Braintree & Chelmsford, Thurrock and South-End-on-Sea borough councils are now all in the toughest measures.
Colourful party-goers made their way home after the 11pm shut-downCredit: Aaron Chown
The streets were buzzing in Soho as people left the pub for the last time in 2020Credit: Reuters
People asked to leave at 11pm carried their final beers home with themCredit: W8MEDIA
Police were out in force to make sure pubs and bars in London were clearedCredit: W8MEDIA
And in Hertfordshire, Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and the Three Rivers local authority area are in Tier 3.
Over the weekend, drinkers across the UK hit the town in York, Liverpool and London.
At the time, those areas were in Tier 2, which allows households to meet indoors and order drinks so long as they are accompanied by “substantial meals”.
Last weekend saw extra Covid cops and marshals being deployed to London to deal with the extra people on the streets.
Friends wrapped their arms around each other as the night came to an endCredit: London News Pictures
Many gathered at bus stops after last ordersCredit: W8MEDIA
Police chattered to revellers who crowded onto streetsCredit: W8MEDIA
PCs are out tonight enforcing the new Tier 3 measures Credit: London News Pictures
These friends put on their party clothes to make the most of the nightCredit: London News Pictures
Sadiq Khan announced the last-minute blitz and said there would be even more “hands, face, space” signs on the capital’s high streets in a desperate attempt to quell the spread of the virus.
It comes as Mr Johnson vows to forge ahead with plans to relax Covid rules for the festive season – despite opposition from all sides.
Talks between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland over the issue were postponed tonight, with no resolution for Brits waiting for clarity.
But it’s understood the PM will seek to compromise with isolation requirements for those planning to see loved ones during the break.
Officials will stop short of changing rules that say three households can meet from December 23 to 27, it’s claimed.
The Government has vowed to keep Christmas for months, telling the public they can meet loved ones if they stick with lockdowns and the new three-tier system.
Millions more head into Tier 3
The measures will hit Brits living across London and the south-east
Today’s closures will force 2,000 pubs to pour five million pints down the drain.
The wasted ale is expected to cost boozers in London about £25million.
Scores of Wetherspoon pubs did their best to sell off what they could at 99p a pint before the new rules came into force.
The shutdown leaves the hospitality industry facing 150,000 job losses if pubs cannot reopen.
And ten million more will be under Tier 3 from midnight.
The British Beer and Pub Association said: “Tier 3 is another nail in the coffin for London’s pubs.”
Millions more are heading into Tier 3