The Prime Minister has set out full details of how England will exit its second national lockdown next week.
The country will come out of lockdown on December 2 after four weeks of stricter restrictions. But areas will be placed back under a tiered system – which will be harsher than it was before the lockdown.
Boris Johnson laid out the ‘Covid winter plan’ in the Commons this afternoon to prepare the country for a possible temporary relaxation of rules over Christmas.
He said the previous tiers did not ‘bring down the R rate enough’.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates Coronavirus news live
‘Without sensible precautions we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or new year surge,’ the PM said.
‘The incidence of the disease is, alas, still widespread in many areas. So we’re not going to replace national measures with a free for all, the status quo anti-Covid.
‘We are going to go back instead to a regional tiered approach applying the toughest measures where Covid is most prevalent.
‘And while the previous local tiers did cut the R number, they were not quite enough to reduce it below 1 so the scientific advice I’m afraid is that as we come out, our tiers need to be made tougher.’
Shops will reopen after the lockdown to allow them some Christmas trade, and gyms and leisure centres will also reopen.
Beauty and personal services can resume and hairdressers, barbers and nail salons can open again.
People will be allowed to leave their homes ‘for any purpose’ and collective worship and weddings can resume.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen, but the controversial 10pm curfew has also been scrapped and replaced with an 11pm finish. Last orders will instead be at 10pm.
Mr Johnson seemed positive these restrictions would be over by the spring: ‘For the first time since this wretched virus took hold, we can see a route out of the pandemic.
‘The breakthroughs in treatment, in tests, mean the scientific cavalry is now in sight and we know in our hearts that next year we will succeed.
‘By the spring, these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020 and make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant.’
How the new tiers will work
In tier one, people are being encouraged to work from home wherever possible.
In tier two alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a ‘substantial meal’ – a rule which proved controversial when tiers were first introduced before the second lockdown.
In tier three indoor entertainment, hotels, and other accommodation will have to close along with all forms of hospitality – except for delivery and takeaways.
What tier will my area be in?
It will be announced on Thursday which tiers will apply to which parts of the country.
The decision will depend on a range of factors, including the number of Covid cases, local NHS capacity and the local R number – the rate at which the virus is spreading.
But Mr Johnson added most areas ‘at least temporarily’ will be in the top two tiers.
Areas in tier three will be offered a six-week surge in community testing, which may allow people who test negative to be given more freedom.
What will happen over Christmas?
It has been suggested rules will be temporarily eased across the whole of the UK – so the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland as well as England – to allow ‘limited household bubbling’ over the festive period.
But Mr Johnson could not say today how many households will be allowed to mix and for how many days restrictions will be eased.
He did confirm though care home residents will be allowed to have two visitors who can be tested twice a week to allow relatives to hug and hold hands again, instead of having to talk to them through plastic windows.
Care workers looking after people in their own homes will also be offered weekly tests from today.
And from next month, weekly tests will be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.
‘I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year,’ the PM added.
‘But in a period of adversity, time with our loved ones is even more previous for people of all faiths and none.
‘We all want some kind of Christmas. We need it, we certainly feel we deserve it.
‘But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again forcing us all back into lockdown in January.’
He said guidance on Christmas, especially for those in the shielding category, will be issued ‘shortly’.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.