Published: 10:13, 20 December 2020
| Updated: 10:14, 20 December 2020
Hundreds of people were spotted piling into Kent's biggest shopping centre to buy last-minute gifts and supplies before the county was plunged into Tier 4.
Lines of cars formed along the A2 slip road at Bean, which directs traffic towards Bluewater, shortly after Boris Johnson's announcement yesterday evening.
Crowds of shoppers were also snapped inside the Greenhithe complex, ahead of the government-imposed closure of many of its stores.
One Twitter user said they had never seen so many people at the shopping centre.
They wrote: "I went past Bluewater shopping centre about 5pm. Never seen it so busy.
"Traffic was mental. The world and his wife headed out for last-minute shopping.
"And people wonder how we have been put in Tier 4."
Under the new restrictions, which came into place at midnight, all non-essential stores have closed and travel bans have been imposed.
Queues of vehicles were seen filling the roads leading to and from Bluewater.
A Twitter user noted: "Just driven past Bluewater - scary stuff in this rain.
"With lockdown announced its shopmageddon with drivers out there."
The mixing of households has also been significantly reduced under the new rules - scuppering many people's plans for the festive period.
Bluewater has confirmed that a number of its shops have locked their doors this morning.
A spokesman said: "In line with government guidance non-essential stores at Bluewater are now closed.
"Our essential stores - including John Lewis Foodhall and M&S - takeaway food options and our car park are still open.
"Some brands will be offering click and collect."
Speaking from Downing Street yesterday, the Prime Minister revealed the county would be placed under the stricter Tier 4 restrictions, amid growing concern over a fast-spreading strain of the coronavirus circulating in the South East.
Mr Johnson confirmed that household mixing at Christmas is off the agenda across the county - where 51 Covid-19 deaths were reported yesterday - and other parts of the country worst-hit by the virus.
"These areas will enter a new Tier 4, which will be broadly equivalent to the national restrictions in place in England in November," the Conservative leader explained.
"That means residents in those areas must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions set out in law.
"Non-essential retail, gyms and leisure facilities, and personal care services must close. People must work from home where they can.
"People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.
"Individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor space."