Matt Hancock blasts ‘irresponsible’ Londoners who fled before Tier 4 lockdown

Londoners fleeing the capital before the Tier 4 coronaviruslockdown began were "totally irresponsible", according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

He fumed that they risk spreading the new "mutant" variant around the country and London stations were described as "war zones" with hundreds of people trying to beat last night's midnight deadline.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson begged Brits to "stay local" this Christmas as he banned festive bubbles for large parts of the country in a bid to stop Covid-19 spreading after a new, more infectious strain of the deadly bug emerged.

It is believed it could be around 70% more infectious than the initial strain.

The festive season was cancelled for millions with around a third of England's population placed into Tier 4 restrictions.

Mr Hancock slammed the pictures and videos circulating on social media of people cramming into trains at busy terminals.

He told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "This was clearly totally irresponsible behaviour.

"Everybody, particularly people in Tier 4 areas, needs to behave as if they might well have the virus – that is the only way we are going to get it under control."

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Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, he added: "We have all got a responsibility.

"We in government of course have a responsibility, but so does every single person.

"The plea that I have is that people will play their part, because it is only by acting, all of us, that we can get this under control."

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Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty had begged people to stay at home as the new rules were laid out, but within hours there were long queues of traffic and chaotic crushes at railway terminals.

British Transport Police are expected to deploy additional officers to ensure only essential journeys are being taken with people in Tier 4 areas banned from travelling outside their zone.

Last night in St Pancras station, hundreds of people were filmed rushing towards barriers to board trains escaping London.

The chaotic scenes were repeated at Paddington and King's Cross while traffic leaving London was jammed hours after the Prime Minister's bombshell announcement.

Commuter Harriet Clugston, who filmed the scenes at St Pancras, compared it to Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War when people were desperate to flee before the Viet Cong invaded.

She tweeted: "Last train out of Saigon. Queue at St Pancras as we wait to board the Leeds-bound train."

“As expected, train is crammed."

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