London’s busiest shopping streets were left deserted just hours after the city moved into Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions.
Some of its most famous thoroughfares were empty on Sunday despite being bustling with people 24 hours earlier.
On Saturday, Boris Johnson announced a Tier 4 lockdown across London and the South East.
SWIPE: OXFORD STREET IN LONDON – SATURDAY VS SUNDAY
Extra police were deployed amid scenes of travel chaos at London’s train stations on Saturday evening as thousands rushed to leave the capital for Christmas before it entered Tier 4 at midnight on Sunday.
Hours later and the scene in London was very different, as its usually busy shopping areas were left empty.
SWIPE: REGENT STREET IN LONDON – SATURDAY VS SUNDAY
Oxford Circus, Oxford Street and Regent Street were all quiet, in stark contrast to the scenes at those spots half a day earlier.
Images showed there were also noticeably fewer people on London Underground trains.
Elsewhere, the normally busy Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent was pictured largely deserted.
SWIPE: OXFORD CIRCUS IN LONDON – SATURDAY VS SUNDAY
Health secretary Matt Hancock condemned Saturday’s busy scenes at London train stations, accusing people of being “totally irresponsible”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said extra police officers would be deployed to enforce travel rules at London’s stations and urged people to stick to government guidance not to leave Tier 4.
There was widespread anger as Johnson was accused of causing nationwide “heartbreak” with his U-turn over Christmas restrictions.
The Christmas bubble policy, which would have allowed up to three families to spend time together between 23 and 27 December, has been dramatically scaled back, with those in Tiers 1 to 3 only allowed to socialise on Christmas Day.
Watch: Streets of London empty as capital enters Tier 4
The lockdown came after the discovery in London and the South East of a new strain of coronavirus associated with a quicker spread than previous versions, and which has already spread to other parts of the UK.
As a result of the new variant, several European countries banned flights from the UK, while France suspended all ferry and rail traffic between the two nations.
Johnson is holding emergency talks on Monday to prevent Christmas food shortages as the freight industry feels the impact of the travel ban.
On Sunday, the UK reported a record rise in daily infections, with 35,928 new cases.
Watch: What is the new COVID variant?