Matt Hancock said it was "absolutely vital that we act" to curb rates after a particularly infectious strain of coronavirus was discovered prevalent across London and the south of England.
"We simply cannot have the kindof Christmas that we all yearn for," the minister said at a press briefing this afternoon.
Areas moving to tier four will be: Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgshire, the parts of Essex not already in tier four, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire.
Areas moving to tier three will be: Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of White, New Forest, Northamptonshire and Cheshire/Warrington.
Cornwall and Herefordshire will move from tier one to tier two.
3 tiers not enough
The announcement came ahead of the next national tier review which will take place on 30 December, with any announcements expected the day after.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast the quick spread of this strain was a “gamechanger” and warned of further measures.
More than 30 countries moved to ban flights from the UK while France closed its border with the UK for 48 hours as policymakers investigated the impact of the B.1.1.7 strain.
Health secretary Matt Hancock also said there had been a couple of cases of another variant of the virus discovered in the UK, thought to originate from South Africa.
What is tier four?
Hospitality venues including pubs, restaurants, cafés, bars and social clubs, must close with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway (until 11pm), click and collect, drive through or delivery services.
Many areas will be moved from tier two to four, meaning the closure of pubs that had managed to stay open while operating a food-focused service and hoped to garner some new year trade.
The three-tier system "worked to control the old variant" and was still working in the north of England, Hancock said. However, tier three was not enough to control the new variant, the minister said this afternoon.
"We have seen it on the ground," Hancock added.
This is the tier system in England mapped out as things stand, before new changes come in on Boxing Day morning.