This has been an awful year. Tens of thousands of people have died because of the pandemic, millions have lost their jobs, hundreds of business gone bust with countless more on the brink and we’ve all had our lives put on hold.

But as we head towards the new year with more positive news about vaccines every week, there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. There is room for hope.

The end of the national lockdown only adds to that feeling - and will be welcomed by people across the UK.

The new rules in place from today vary depending on where you live in the country, but our capital city has been placed into tier 2, meaning Londoners can now start seeing more of their friends and loved ones safely outdoors and support our businesses while following the public health guidance.

This is only possible because of the monumental sacrifices we have all made over recent months for each other - doing the right thing and following the rules in order to keep our friends, family, colleagues and neighbours safe.

The end of the national lockdown provides a vital boost for our high streets - especially for our shops and hospitality businesses.

In London and across the UK, they are the engines of our economy and many are teetering on the edge after being forced to close by the Government just as preparations for Christmas began.

That’s why I’m backing the Mirror’s brilliant ‘Shop for Britain’ campaign - and urging everyone to show their support for our high streets when deciding where to do the Christmas shopping this year.

They need our support now more than ever.  

Despite the easing of restrictions today, we must remember that the pandemic is not over.

It will be some time before vaccines and treatments mean the pandemic is beaten for good - and it’s possible things could yet get worse again before getting better.

That’s why we must all continue to strictly follow the rules. If we throw caution to the wind and act like this virus has gone away then we will see a devastating further surge in cases at the worst possible time - just when our NHS is already under huge winter pressure.

So I’m appealing directly to all Londoners today. Please follow the new rules. Don’t socialise with anyone indoors who you do not live with or who isn’t in your support bubble.

If you’re in a shop you must wear a face covering and try & keep a two-metre distance, where possible. Plan your journey ahead, so you can shop at quieter times, and avoid travelling on public transport during rush hour.

We must keep the virus under control in order to protect our loved ones and to support our economy to recover and create jobs. Nothing is more important.

That means continuing to act with caution - so that we can avoid tougher restrictions in the future - and continue to look forwards with hope towards a better year in 2021.