Matt Hancock has announced the regions that will face the toughest restriction during a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon.

The Midlands, North East, parts of the North West and parts of the South West are among those escalated to tier 4.

Under these restrictions, non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues must close, with a new “stay at home” message introduced.

People who need to travel for education or childcare are exempt, and exercise is unlimited.

The Government created the strict fourth tier in response to a new, highly contagious variant of coronavirus that is spreading across England.

The announcement comes after SAGE said England’s Tier 4 restrictions aren’t tough enough to control the mutant Covid-19 strain.

The announcement of areas moving into tier 4 came as 53,135 new Covid cases were recorded in the UK on Tuesday, the highest single day rise since mass testing began, as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

The health secretary said: “The NHS is under very significant pressure and we can see the impact this is happening, the threat to life is real.

The new variant means that three quarters of the population are now going to be in Tier 4 and almost all of the country in Tiers 3 and 4.

And I know that Tier 3 and 4 measures place a significant burden on people, and especially on businesses affected, but I am afraid it is absolutely necessary because of the number of cases that we’ve seen.

But where we are still able to give places greater freedoms, we will continue to do so.”

All of the tier changes will come into effect at 00:01 on Thursday 31 December.

In Tier 4 people must stay at home, unless they are buying food and medicines.  Residents in Tier 4 must not leave tier 4 areas except for work, education or visiting a support or childcare bubble. Meeting just one other person outside in public spaces is permitted and they can go for unlimited amount of exercise.

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people while now only 6 people can go to a Tier 4 wedding, including the couple getting married.

You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble and maintain strict social distancing at all times.

Prime Minister reaction to the news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved

The Tier news comes as the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine was approved by the regulators.

Mr Hancock confirmed the UK has 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine available from Monday.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA led a briefing to discuss the latest vaccine saying “no corners have been cut” in assessing the safety and effectiveness of the jab.

Reacting to the announcement the Prime Minister tweeted:

“It is truly fantastic news – and a triumph for British science – that the UniofOxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use. We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible”

Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group:

Prof Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group

‘The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment. Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.”