UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have announced new Tier 4 restrictions for London and South East England as a result of coronavirus increasing rapidly, but England Golf has confirmed that golf courses in Tier 4 can remain open for play in individual play, two-balls from the same or different households/bubbles, and three or fourballs involving people from the same household/bubble.
London and areas of the south east of England will move to Tier 4 alert level from Sunday December 20.
"The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf is happy to confirm that golf courses will be able to remain open when the new Tier 4 restrictions become effective in parts of England from 06:00 GMT on Sunday 20th December," reads a statement from England Golf.
"In Tier 4 areas, golf courses can remain open for individuals playing with members of their own household or support bubble, or with one person from another household.
"As usual, social distancing is to be observed and all necessary steps are to be taken to ensure a COVID-19 secure environment.
"Under Tier 4 restrictions, non-essential retail – including Pro Shops and golf retailers – must close. Click and Collect will, however, be permitted.
"Outdoor coaching will be allowed on an individual basis or for multiple members of the same household or support bubble. Indoor coaching will be not be permitted.
"There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.
"Custom fitting can take place outside on a one-to-one basis but is not permitted indoors.
"Some golf ranges can be classified as indoor settings, but it would be for each facility to read and interpret the guidelines against their own venue – it is suggested that if confirmation is required they contact their local authority who will be best placed to advise.
"Unless it’s essential for work or other reasons, Tier 4 areas must not be left by occupants or entered by anybody from a Tier 1, 2 or 3 area. Full details of Tier 4 guidance can be found on the government’s website."
For Tier 4 restricted areas, Gov.uk states: "Outdoor sports courts, outdoor gyms, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges, riding centres and playgrounds can remain open for individual exercise, and for people to use with others within your household, support bubble, or with one person from another household. Organised outdoor sport for under 18s and disabled people will be allowed."
Mr Johnson's decision to place London and South East England into Tier 4 has been prompted over fears of a new strain of coronavirus.
Tier 4 measures in the South East will be in place for an initial two-week period, and Mr Johnson stressed that people must stick to the rules, and that includes both Christmas and New Year periods.
"Tier 4 measures will see all non-essential shops, gyms, and hairdressers close, with people ordered to stay home apart from limited exceptions such as work - if people cannot work from home - education, childcare and exercise," confirmed Sky News.
Johnson revealed that the new variant of coronavirus may be up to 70% more transmissable than the early disease. Official figures today show that the UK has recorded a further 27,052 COVID cases and an additional 534 COVID related deaths.
The chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty has said the UK had now informed the World Health Organisation that it had concluded the mutant strain could spread more quickly.
The following areas will now be in Tier 4:
> Surrey (excluding Waverley)
> Boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
> All 32 London boroughs and the city of London
> Central Bedfordshire
> Milton Keynes
> Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
Johnson's press conference confirmed that millions of people across the south east of England will no longer be able to mix with other households at Christmas, with new Tier 4 COVID restrictions - the equivalent of a full lockdown - coming into effect on Sunday December 20.
As for Christmas, people in Tier 4 areas will no longer be allowed to form 'Christmas bubbles' with other households.
Johnson also confirmed that all Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight elsewhere away from their household.
"This virus has taken off, it's moving fast and it's leading inevitably to a sharp increase in hospital admissions," said Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser.
The country's five-day easing of restrictions over the festive period will therefore now be limited to a single day. Only Tiers 1, 2 and 3 will be able to mix on Christmas Day.
"We cannot continue with Christmas as planned," said Mr Johnson, as he outlined the action "with a very heavy heart".
Johnson also confirmed: "We are asking everyone across all tiers to stay local. Those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel aboard, unless it's for work purposes."
Asked by @SamCoatesSky what hope he would give to people who will now have to spend Christmas alone, the PM stresses "of course we bitterly regret that this is necessary this year", but he reiterates that acting now will pay dividends in the long term https://t.co/sqj1E3OdGQ pic.twitter.com/pm0st2ZjWA— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 19, 2020
People in all tiers in England have been advised to "carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad".
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The scientific evidence on the new variant of coronavirus is sobering. If you are in Tier 4, from tomorrow you must stay at home to protect the NHS & save lives. Thank you to everyone playing their part in the national effort."
Despite the news that regions in London and the South East will be going into Tier 4, Johnson remains optimistic for the future.
"This is a race, we are doing our best to protect the public," said Mr Johnson. "I am confident will get the vaccine to the public by the Spring and our country will be radically different in the Easter."
Golf courses in both Northern Ireland and Wales will close, however.
The Golfing Union of Ireland has confirmed that clubs in Northern Ireland must close for six weeks.
"It is with regret that we must advise that golf clubs must close with effect from 00.01 on Saturday 26 December 2020," read a statement. "This closure is scheduled to last for six weeks but is subject to a formal review after four weeks."
The Welsh government has also said it has taken the "difficult decision to bring forward the alert level four restrictions for Wales, in line with the action being taken in London and the South East of England."
ln Wales, a new lockdown begins on December 28 and will be reviewed on January 18, meaning golf courses will have to close for at least three weeks.
In a statement the Welsh government said it has taken the "difficult decision to bring forward the alert level four restrictions for Wales, in line with the action being taken in London and the South East of England"— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 19, 2020
Read more here https://t.co/Y6dysZsWEG pic.twitter.com/582rPE0d0U