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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called Londoners who packed train stations around the capital 'totally irresponsible' after huge crowds were seen trying to leave after Tier Four restrictions were announced yesterday.
The new rules meant no one could leave the city after midnight.
However, the scenes at some London stations have been compared to the 'last helicopter out of Saigon' as large numbers of people were packed in and unable to socially distance.
Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News this morning, Hancock took aim at those who selfishly fled from London yesterday, sighing and shaking his head before saying: "This was clearly totally irresponsible behaviour. The Chief Medical Officer [Professor Chris Whitty] was absolutely clear that people should unpack their bags if they have them packed."
The change in the rules may have come as a shock to some, given that the government had said for weeks that up to three households would be able to form a Christmas bubble over a truncated festive season, until the Prime Minister's dramatic U-turn yesterday afternoon.
The government said their decision was based on a new variant of the virus believed to spread much quicker than the others, which has been responsible - they believe - for the spike in cases that saw London moved into Tier Three last week, then subsequently Tier Four yesterday.
Hancock continued: "I think it is relatively small numbers and the large, vast majority of people throughout this whole pandemic have followed the rules, been responsible and played their part and I want to thank everybody for doing that.
"It is more important than ever that people are responsible, not only stick to the rules, but even within the rules restrict social contact as much as is possible because this is deadly serious."
The British Medical Association (BMA) has criticised the government's actions this morning, arguing that they've not 'managed' the situation well and haven't followed the science, as Johnson has so often stated.
On the same Sky News programme today, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "We were concerned at the time the Prime Minister announced the five-day relaxation for Christmas because the science told us then that the virus was spreading week-on-week.
"It just did not follow the science to relax the rules.
"Last Wednesday, before the new variant was announced, it was obvious that the infection was spreading at a dangerous level, the NHS was in a dangerous state, and again, the science wasn't followed when in fact we should have reversed the Christmas relaxation rules.
"So, whilst there is a new variant, we didn't need the new variant to reverse this rule and the public could of course have been given greater notice, but there's no doubt it was the right and necessary decision."
The shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said that she was 'angry' at the government's sudden about-face on the Christmas rules.
She said: "I've been watching - like everyone else - the case rates rising for several weeks and every day this week we have raised with the Government the fact that surely Christmas plans need to be revised?
"Every day that concern has been dismissed, ridiculed by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on Wednesday, only to find yesterday that people have made plans over the last week that now lie in tatters with very little time to sort that out before Christmas.
"Over and over again we've seen the same pattern, a Prime Minister that rejects the evidence, who ridicules and mocks concerns, who dithers and delays and then ends up having to change his mind at the 11th hour.
"This is how a country that has pioneering scientists and a health care system that is the envy of the world ends up with the worst number of deaths in Europe and the worst recession of any major economy.
"It just cannot continue like this."
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