Video footage on social media shows huge queues at St Pancras station as people rushed to catch the train to Leeds, potentially joining family members and loved ones for Christmas, while they still could.
At 4pm this afternoon Boris Johnson held a Downing Street press conference, declaring tougher tier four restrictions – broadly the same as November’s lockdown – in London, and much of the South East and East of England from midnight tonight.
Plans allowing five day festive bubbles for three households have been scrapped in these hotspots and have been stripped back to just Christmas Day in tiers one, two and three. People have also been advised to avoid travel and to stay as local as possible.
When asked by the media what he would say to someone who has their bags packed to see family and loved ones for Christmas, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘If you’ve packed your bag for Christmas, unpack it.’
But with the Prime Minister sticking to his guns and defending his Christmas bubble plans between late November and this afternoon, many people will have already made up their minds regardless of the Downing Street’s last minute change of heart.
As commuters scrambled to get to other towns and cities across the country, making social distancing impossible, people took to social media to voice their concerns.
Blogger and University of Glasgow law student Ben McKinlay tweeted: ‘What an utterly predictable disaster.’
Sharing a video from the scene, journalist Harriet Clugston said: ‘Last train out of Saigon. Queue at St Pancras as we wait to board the Leeds bound train.
‘Everyone of course has suitcases. People have tried to secure social distancing by placing on seats but being asked to remove them by other passengers as the train is so full.
‘To make matters worse, we’ve been told this train will be taken out of service at Derby.
‘We will all get off and board a new train, no doubt mixing the virus amongst ourselves as we reorganise with new seat partners. Maximum damage guaranteed.’
Another woman, who did not wish to be named, said she and her partner had made the ‘split decision’ to take their young son to her parents’ home on the coast.
She said: ‘We just made the decision to leave based on the fact that my parents said come, and we couldn’t bear the thought of no fresh air and a toddler going rogue round a small flat for the foreseeable.
‘We also really just felt we wanted to get the baby somewhere a bit safer with a garden, though we know a lot of people won’t have that luxury.
‘The grandparents are just desperately happy they’ll see their grandson.
‘We obviously worry about taking something down to them, but they seem happy to take the risk.’
Izzy, 22, from Bristol, said that she wanted ‘the security of being home for Christmas’ and that her parents had come to collect her before the restrictions came into effect.
She added: ‘I have a slight nervousness that they might block the roads or something stopping me going home.
‘I’m moving out of my flat so I need my dad to come and get me and he feels more comfortable doing it before Tier 4 kicks in.’
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