UK

Boris Johnson unveils post-December 2 lockdown ‘Tiers’

Boris Johnson heralded a last push to see off the coronavirus crisis today holding out the prospect that lockdown could be lifted altogether by April – after another dramatic vaccine breakthrough.

In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister said there is an ‘escape route in sight’ as he confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before.

He revealed that Christmas shopping is being saved as retail and gyms can reopen in all Tiers, while there is the potential for small family gatherings over the festive season. Spectator sports will also be able to make a limited comeback in the two lower levels.

But pubs and restaurants are set to pay the price with ‘devastating’ restrictions, sparking warnings that three quarters of hospitality firms could go bust. 

Although the hated 10pm curfew on bars is being eased, with last orders at that time and kicking out an hour later, the industry has branded it ‘reopening in name only’. Alcohol sales will only be allowed with meals in Tier Two, and it will be takeaway service only in the highest bracket. 

Mr Johnson declared that the new curbs will be ‘redundant’ and expire by law at the end of March – when there is increasing optimism that effective vaccines will be in circulation. ‘We have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight,’ he said.

He said the ‘whole concept’ of coronavirus lockdown should be unnecessary by the Spring, but warned: ‘We are not there yet.’ 

Mr Johnson said Britons ‘need’ to have ‘some kind of Christmas’, and UK-wide proposals will be outlined soon. But he added that families will have to make ‘careful judgments’ about the risks of meeting elderly relatives. ‘This virus is not going to make a Christmas truce.’ 

Meanwhile there is a special exemption in the new rules for families with children aged under one, who will now be allowed to form a bubble with one other household. Mr Johnson and fiancee Carrie, who have young son Wilfred, will be covered by the get-out. 

It comes after AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced their jab was up to 90 per cent effective in initial trials, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19. Tens of millions of doses could now be available in the UK by Easter.  

The breakdown of what areas are going into the different Tiers should be announced on Thursday, with MPs due to vote on the plans next week. The Tiers will be reviewed at least every fortnight. 

Tory rebel ringleader Mark Harper said in the Commons that critics of the lockdown will ‘hold their judgment’ to see what restrictions are imposed where.  

In one of the biggest days so far in the coronavirus saga:

  • Ministers are proposing a major testing scheme to prevent the need for self-isolation when people have come into contact with infected individuals, in an attempt to win over rebels on the Conservative backbenches;
  • In a boost for the PM, Tory rebel ringleader Steve Baker this morning said he was ‘reassured’ by the government’s new plan;
  • Rishi Sunak is readying billions of pounds more for infrastructure, the NHS and defence in what looks like a final splurge as the coronavirus crisis hammers the public finances; 
  • The respected IFS think-tank has suggested tax rises might not happen until 2025 after the next election;
  • Ms Sturgeon has revealed that there will not be any easing of restrictions over New Year and Hogmanay, despite the idea of looser rules at Christmas.   
In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before.

In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before.

In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before

Keir Starmer said the change back to Tiers was 'risky'

Mr Johnson declared that the new curbs will be ‘redundant’ and expire by law at the end of March – when there is increasing optimism that effective vaccines will be in circulation. ‘We have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight,’ he said

Boris Johnson unveils post-December 2 lockdown 'Tiers'

In a Commons statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson is set to confirm the second national lockdown will end in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before

In a Commons statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson is set to confirm the second national lockdown will end in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before

Oxford jab ‘up to 90% effective’ and UK has 100m doses on order 

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is up to 90 per cent effective, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19, preliminary results have revealed today.

The trials found that the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. This drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.

The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4 per cent, Oxford University/AstraZeneca said.

The life-saving jab, costing between £2 and £4 each, is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has ordered 100million doses.

The Prime Minister tweeted today: ‘Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. Well done to our brilliant scientists at @UniofOxford & @AstraZeneca, and all who volunteered in the trials.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna in the US have showed 95 per cent protection – but both have to be stored between minus 75C and minus 20C and are up to £24 more expensive per jab.

Oxford University/AstraZeneca said today they have found no serious Covid-19 cases among any of 20,000 people who received the jab in the UK and Brazil and with regulatory approval will be able to start administering it by the end of 2020.

Scientists have also hailed the discovery that a half-dose for the first jab makes it more effective, saying it means more people can be inoculated because the vaccine will go further.

In his statement to MPs, Mr Johnson said ‘lessons had been learned’ from the first version of the Tiers.

After bitter wrangling with areas over what bracket they would go into, this time the restrictions will be ‘standard’ and not up for negotiation. 

The government is allocating £900million extra per head funding for local authorities up to the end of March. 

Mr Johnson praised advances in testing, treatment and vaccines and said the ‘scientific cavalry is in sight’, adding to MPs: ‘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.’

But the premier went on: ‘The hard truth is we’re not there yet.

‘First we must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control and squandering our hard-won gains at exactly the time where the burden on the NHS is always greatest.

‘Our winter plan is designed to carry us safely to spring.’

Laying out the new system to take effect from midnight on the morning of December 2, Mr Johnson said: ‘From next Wednesday people will be able to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the rule of six, collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.

‘But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge.

‘The incidents of the disease is, alas, still widespread in many areas.’

Mr Johnson said that when the regional Tiers are allocated – ‘hopefully’ on Thursday – more people were set to be in the higher levels.

‘I’m sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall at least temporarily into higher levels than before but by using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below one and keep it there, it should be possible for areas to move down the (tier) scale to lower levels of restrictions,’ he said.

Responding, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘risky’ to return to the Tiers now as they had not worked to control the virus previously. 

After England’s lockdown ends on December 2, non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen across the country in the hope that retailers can salvage part of their vital Christmas trade.

Gyms will be permitted to reopen in all tiers, and outdoor sport will be allowed to resume. 

But, under the plan signed off by the Cabinet last night, most of the country will be placed in the top two tiers, where the hospitality sector will remain subject to heavy restrictions.

Sources have cautioned that ‘most people’ will be placed in tiers two and three, where all indoor socialising with other households will be banned – potentially until the spring.

Hospitality firms in the top Tier will only be allowed to offer takeaways, while in Tier Two alcohol is only permitted with ‘substantial meals’.  

Despite the latest positive signs on vaccines there are warnings that thousands of businesses could be pushed to the wall by the ongoing restrictions, even though the hated 10pm pubs curfew is set to be loosened.

From December 2 last orders will be at 10pm, and kicking out time will be 11pm.

Ministers hope that will prevent the scenes of crowds from before as people emerged on to the streets in a rush.

Sports crowds can be back in stadiums from December 2 

Stadiums are due to be allowed to re-open from December 2 once the second coronavirus lockdown is eased.

Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that the Department for Culture Media and Sport has submitted proposals to the Cabinet Office for the return of fans to grounds in December for the first time since March.

But now 4,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of a stadium’s capacity for outdoor events, depending on which is lower – are set to be allowed in Tier 1 areas as well as 2,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity for indoor events also due to be allowed.

Areas in Tier 2 will also be allowed to welcome 2,000 spectators or 50 per cent of their stadium capacity outdoors, again depending on whichever figure is lower, and 1,000 fans or 50 per cent of capacity indoors.

Areas that will go straight into Tier 3 however will still have to adhere to a ban of attending sporting events for all fans.

In his statement detailing the long-awaited return of spectators to live sporting events, Boris Johnson said: ‘In Tiers 1 and 2 spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing.’

He however warned that at the end of lockdown, more places will be in higher tiers than before.

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said the PM was proposing a reopening ‘in name only’ that felt ‘very unfair’. ‘We fear that 75 per cent of our businesses will be unviable with these restrictions lasting beyond December unless we get further help from the government,’ she told Sky News.

She added: ‘We are looking at millions of jobs across not just hospitality but our wider supply chain.’ 

The Food and Drink Federation said: ‘We still harbour deep concern at the potentially desperate future for hospitality. 

‘There is real danger that continued restrictions will result in two thirds of pubs, clubs and restaurants – customers to food manufacturers – closing before the vaccine arrives. We must see further financial support for this vital sector.’ 

In a round of interviews, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted it was a more ‘calibrated’ approach that would ‘save lives’, saying together with breakthrough news on the Oxford vaccine it meant there is now a ‘way through’ the misery. 

Mr Johnson is also close to agreeing a UK-wide Christmas deal with Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and other devolved leaders that will allow families a chance to see some friends and loved ones. That plan could be finalised as early as tomorrow.

But Sir Keir said there were ‘huge gaps’ in the plans.

‘Labour has backed the Prime Minister on all the big decisions the Government’s had to take to protect public health, including the two national lockdowns,’ he said.

‘We’ve done so because we want there to be a national consensus on difficult issues like this and because we’ll always put public health first.

‘Ideally, I’d like to be in a position to do so again. But there are huge gaps in this plan, huge uncertainties and huge risks.

‘We will await the detail, we want the Prime Minister to get this right.

‘He’s got a week to do so.’

Earlier, Mr Hancock said the number of cases was beginning to fall.

‘It is very clear that keeping the virus under control and getting the R below 1 saves lives because we can see that if the virus gets out of control the number of hospitalisations goes up, sadly the number of people dying goes up,’ he told Times Radio.

‘But the new tiers are calibrated to do that in a way that has as little impingement as is reasonably possible on our lives and on the economy.

‘Managing to open retail would have a big positive effect on the economy and we think we will still keep R below 1 and the number of cases coming down.

‘So, it is a more calibrated approach to the tiers so they can be more closely aligned to what is going on in your area.’

But Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was among those warning that many hospitality businesses would not survive a toughened system of tiered controls in England.

‘I am worried about what I am hearing this morning. It seems that a toughened Tier 3 could be devastating for the hospitality industry and will hit cities and the city economy very, very hard indeed,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘They seem to be going too far before Christmas to allow too much over Christmas and that will lead to a huge loss of hospitality businesses, which I would say is too big a price to pay.

‘To close all hospitality businesses in Tier 3 areas – that will be large parts of the North – that will be devastating for many of those businesses. They will not survive that.’

Ms Nicholls said the news was ‘far worse than anyone could have anticipated’. She said: ‘This a cruel decision and it just feels as if the whole sector is being thrown to the wolves.

‘If the tiers had stayed as they were until March, we were already expecting 94 per cent of businesses in Tier 3 and 74 per cent of businesses in Tier 2 to go to the wall. Now we have restrictions that are even worse.

‘We make 25 per cent of our profits in the run-up to Christmas and the Government is taking that away.

‘This will have a catastrophic effect on a large number of businesses and all those jobs that were furloughed will be lost. You are talking about the prospect of a million job losses and 30-40,000 premises closing their doors for good.’

MailOnline spoke to landlords crying out for looser restrictions to breathe life back into Britain’s hard-hit hospitality trade.

A particular blow is expected to be dealt to wet-led pubs which in the top two tiers will be forced to serve food if they are to open. 

Gary Murphy, landlord of the Ye Olde Mitre Inn, High Barnet, London, told MailOnline that 97 per cent of his profits come from drink sales – but he is going to try to adapt to the new measures ‘in desperation’ because the pub has been burning through funds to the extent he has not paid himself a wage since March.

He said: ‘I only have a tiny kitchen and most customers come here to drink, not eat. It changes my entire business which relies on drinks.’

‘I haven’t made any money since March’: Pub bosses warn they face disaster under new Tiers

Ministers have been warned that clamping harsh restrictions on pubs and restaurants next month would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for thousands of venues and trigger a jobs bloodbath.

MailOnline spoke to landlords crying out for looser restrictions to breathe life back into Britain’s hard-hit hospitality trade.

A particular blow is expected to be dealt to wet-led pubs which in the top two tiers will be forced to serve food if they are to open. 

Gary Murphy, landlord of the Ye Olde Mitre Inn, High Barnet, London, told MailOnline that 97 per cent of his profits come from drink sales – but he is going to try to adapt to the new measures ‘in desperation’ because the pub has been burning through funds to the extent he has not paid himself a wage since March.

He said: ‘I only have a tiny kitchen and most customers come here to drink, not eat. It changes my entire business which relies on drinks.’

Mr Murphy said the pub has been operating on a loss but he is still grappling with steep rent costs over £2,000 a week as well as lofty overheads.

‘I haven’t been taking any money personally since march. I’ve been living off my savings, and my wife also works. 

‘The pub’s been generating a loss and now we’re faced with the prospect of having to open with food, so out of sheer desperation I’m going to try to open because I’ve got to do something to get out of this awful situation.

Peter Tiley, landlord of The Salutation Inn, Gloucestershire, a former winner of National Pub of the Year, said he would not be able to open if forced to serve a meal.

Mr Murphy said the pub has been operating on a loss but he is still grappling with steep rent costs over £2,000 a week as well as lofty overheads.

‘I haven’t been taking any money personally since march. I’ve been living off my savings, and my wife also works. 

‘The pub’s been generating a loss and now we’re faced with the prospect of having to open with food, so out of sheer desperation I’m going to try to open because I’ve got to do something to get out of this awful situation.

Peter Tiley, landlord of The Salutation Inn, Gloucestershire, a former winner of National Pub of the Year, said he would not be able to open if forced to serve a meal.

He told MailOnline: ‘I’m gutted. I think it’s a real slap in the face for community wet-led pubs. Neither of my pubs serve food and they’re deliberately designed that way so people can come in, for a chat, without feeling like they’re imposing on a restaurant.’

Mr Tiley said that pubs have been ‘sacrificial lambs’ throughout the pandemic and is desperate to open to claw back some earnings in the vital winter trading window.

He said he’d spent poured thousands of pounds into Covid-proofing the pub as well as buying outdoor equipment so customers can sit outside.

‘I don’t know how much longer it can continue,’ he said. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday acknowledged that Christmas ‘is not going to be normal’, but said ministers wanted to give families some respite without risking a third wave of the virus.

Proposals believed to have been signed off by all four home nations would allow up to three households to gather for Christmas, provided they meet with no one else during this period. 

The respite will last for five days, beginning on Christmas Eve and running through to the Bank Holiday Monday on December 28.

Travel and overnight stays will be permitted across the UK to allow friends and families to unite for the Christmas break. But there will be no relaxation of the rules for New Year.

At her daily briefing in Edinburgh this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said it is ‘likely’ extended household bubbles will be allowed over Christmas.

Decisions to ease restrictions over the festive period are a ‘particularly difficult balance to strike’ and have split public opinion, she said.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘Reducing the prevalence of the virus is also what will allow us to consider a slight and careful – and I want to stress today those words ‘slight’ and ‘careful’ – easing of the rules for a few days over the festive period.

‘There is an obvious desire to see loved ones at Christmas, I think we all feel that very strongly.

‘There’s also a lot of anxiety about the potential risks associated with that, particularly at a time when we’re starting to see, perhaps, the end of this pandemic loom on the horizon.

‘So we’re trying as hard as we can to reach a sensible balance, although it is possible – likely, in fact – that some households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period over Christmas.

‘We’re considering this because we recognise that isolation and loneliness can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period.’

Ms Sturgeon said there is a recognition that – given the nature of Christmas and pressure people may feel to spend time with family members who may be alone over the period – some may ‘try to push the boundaries’ of restrictions.

She said rather rather than allow that to be ‘uncontrolled’, the Scottish Government is trying to build in flexibility during the holidays.

Public Health England warned last week that five days of tougher restrictions would be needed for every day of relaxation over Christmas. But the Chancellor played down the warning, saying it was ‘difficult to be so precise’.

Police chiefs warned last week that they had no interest in trying to enforce the rules around family gatherings at Christmas. Government sources said the Prime Minister would appeal to people to show ‘common sense’ in ensuring that the Christmas relaxation does not spark a fresh surge in cases.

Matt Hancock

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said it was a reopening 'in name only' and it was 'very unfair'

In a round of interviews today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (left) insisted it was a more ‘calibrated’ approach that would ‘save lives’, saying there is now a ‘way through’ the misery. UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls (right) said it was a reopening ‘in name only’ and it was ‘very unfair’

The Tiers will be significantly tougher in key respects, leaving the hospitality industry facing 'catastrophic' restrictions while retail is allowed to continue to prop up the economy

The Tiers will be significantly tougher in key respects, leaving the hospitality industry facing ‘catastrophic’ restrictions while retail is allowed to continue to prop up the economy 

One last splurge from Rishi as experts say tax rises could wait till 2025 

Rishi Sunak is readying billions of pounds more for infrastructure, the NHS and defence in what looks like a final splurge as the coronavirus crisis hammers the public finances.

The Chancellor will use the spending review on Wednesday to push ahead with huge investment on schools, hospitals, colleges and prisons to meet Tory election pledges. 

He has signalled that tax rises will be put off until the ‘fog of uncertainty’ caused by the pandemic has lifted – with the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies saying this morning that they might not happen until 2025, after the next election. 

However, the foreign aid budget is likely to be trimmed by at least £4billion under plans to ‘temporarily’ jettison the vow to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid.

And Mr Sunak is set to press ahead with a pay freeze for five million public sector workers, despite strike threats from the TUC.   

Mr Sunak said the new tiered system would be ‘tougher’ than the previous one. It is expected to last until the spring, when ministers hope the rollout of vaccines will allow life to start returning to normal. Ministers will announce on Thursday which areas of the country will go into which tiers.

Government scientists have warned that Tier One restrictions proved ineffective last month.

As a result, tens of millions of people will be placed in tiers two and three where much tougher restrictions apply. 

In Tier Three, pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway services, people are banned from overnight stays outside the home and travel outside the local area is frowned on.

Downing Street last night said that mass testing would be made available in all Tier Three areas to help them catch infections early and slow the spread of the virus.

Mr Johnson will unveil the details of the plans to MPs this afternoon. In a message overnight, he said the UK was ‘not out of the woods’, but suggested there were reasons for cautious optimism.

‘The selflessness of people in following the rules is making a difference,’ he said. ‘The virus is not spreading nearly as quickly as it would if we were not washing our hands, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and so on. And in England, where nationwide measures came into effect at the start of this month, the increase in new cases is flattening off.

‘We are not out of the woods yet. The virus is still present in communities across the country, and remains both far more infectious and far more deadly than seasonal flu. But with expansion in testing and vaccines edging closer to deployment, the regional tiered system will help get the virus back under control and keep it there.’

The Government announced a further 341 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 54,626. 

Meanwhile, bombshell results have shown the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is up to 90 per cent effective, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19.

Initial trials found that the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. 

This drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.

The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4 per cent, Oxford University/AstraZeneca said.

The life-saving jab, costing between £2 and £4 each, is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has ordered 100million doses.

The Prime Minister tweeted today: ‘Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. Well done to our brilliant scientists at @UniofOxford & @AstraZeneca, and all who volunteered in the trials.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna in the US have showed 95 per cent protection – but both have to be stored between minus 75C and minus 20C and are up to £24 more expensive per jab.

Oxford University/AstraZeneca said today they have found no serious Covid-19 cases among any of 20,000 people who received the jab in the UK and Brazil and with regulatory approval will be able to start administering it by the end of 2020.

Scientists have also hailed the discovery that a half-dose for the first jab makes it more effective, saying it means more people can be inoculated because the vaccine will go further.

Will the lockdown continue and what will reopen when it finally ends? As Boris Johnson plans a NEW system of tiered Covid-19 restrictions next month, we answer the most pressing questions 

Will the lockdown continue?

No. Boris Johnson will confirm today the lockdown will end on December 2. It will be replaced by a system of regional restrictions in three tiers.

December 2 is the lockdown’s legal endpoint, with any extension requiring a vote in Parliament.

What comes next will depend on a review of Covid-19 case data to assess if the lockdown has had an effect.

Will the tiers be the same as before?

No. The Government will revert to a three-tier system, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it will be ‘tougher’ than before the lockdown.

What were the tiers before?

England was split into three in October in the original tiered strategy, with areas in the first tier – medium alert – subject to the same national measures which were in force at the time across the country including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people. 

Under the second tier – high alert – household mixing was banned indoors while the Rule of Six continued to apply outdoors.

Tier 3 – very high alert – banned social mixing both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant. 

How will this new system be different?

More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the system, and restrictions in each of the areas are expected to be altered.

Under the old system, local leaders were to help determine whether venues such as gyms or casinos should be closed in very high alert level areas, and this may change in the new system.

Ministers will announce on Thursday which tier each area will enter.

What will happen with pubs?

It is understood pubs and restaurants will be allowed to stay open later than the 10pm curfew which previously existed.

The plans will mean that, while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.

There are reports suggesting that pubs will have to serve a ‘substantial meal’ with any drinks and people must stay within their household groups.

Will shops and gyms reopen when the lockdown ends?

Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade. Gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart. 

Betting shops are likely to close in the higher tiers and hospitality venues will probably remain takeaway-only in parts of the country, with restrictions on houses mixing elsewhere.

In Tier One pubs will be allowed to remain open until 11pm, in Tier Two the curfew of 10pm still stands, while in Tier Three you can't go to the pub at all

In Tier One pubs will be allowed to remain open until 11pm, in Tier Two the curfew of 10pm still stands, while in Tier Three you can’t go to the pub at all

Will I be able to see family and friends?

The Rule of Six will remain in place. Indoor socialising with other households will remain banned in the top two tiers and is likely to be restricted in the lowest tier as well. 

How will they pick which tier my area goes into?

Ministers will announce 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 Government sources have said that ‘most people’ will be in the top two tiers.

Will 10pm curfew stay?

No. Pubs and restaurants will stop serving alcohol at 10pm, but customers will have until 11pm to drink up and leave.

Will overnight stays outside of your home be allowed?

Overnight stays in other households are currently banned except for support bubbles. After lockdown ends, whether this will be allowed is likely to depend on which tier you are in, if the tier system remains in the same form as before.

Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade, gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart

Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade, gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart

How long will the new tier system last? 

The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.

But with no vaccines having been approved it is still not clear exactly when the rollout will be able to begin.

Government sources said the new system was expected to remain until spring.

Is the vote on the Covid Winter Plan a done deal?

Not entirely – Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be wary of a rebellion from backbench Tory MPs who are opposed to new restrictions.

During a vote on the current four-week system earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled to oppose the measures and 17 more, including former prime minister Theresa May, abstained.

A ‘Covid recovery group’ led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker has been formed to resist new measures, with suggestions 50 Tories have enlisted.

What’s happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland will go into a strict two-week lockdown from Friday, with non-essential retail, the hospitality sector and close-contact services required to shut.

Tougher restrictions were imposed for parts of Scotland on November 20, requiring non-essential shops, the hospitality sector, gyms and beauty salons in 11 council areas to close for three weeks.

The Level 4 restrictions, which apply to parts of west and central Scotland, will be in place until December 11.

Meanwhile, the 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales ended on November 9.

Are restrictions going to be lifted over Christmas?

The Cabinet Office on Sunday said that leaders across the UK had endorsed an objective of ‘some limited additional household bubbling’ will be permitted over the Christmas period for a small number of days.

It comes as Boris Johnson is about to set out the basis of plans for the festive period on Monday, as well as detailing a new tougher three-tier system for England when its national lockdown ends on December 2.

But Mr Johnson will be unable to say how many households will be allowed to mix over Christmas and for how many days restrictions will be relaxed for until a later date, it is understood.

So will people be allowed to see their families at Christmas?

The answer seems to be yes, but the details remain to be finalised.

But the public will be ‘advised to remain cautious’ and told that ‘wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact’, a statement from the Cabinet Office said.

What has been agreed?

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove held discussions on Saturday with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford, and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill on shared arrangements for the festive period.

The ministers ‘endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days’, the department said.

Gyms are expected to reopen across all three tiers

Gyms are expected to reopen across all three tiers 

Do we know how many households will be allowed to mix?

The simple answer is no, but there has been a lot of speculation on what the limit will be and for how long the relaxation will last.

The BBC has reported that one option being discussed was for three households to be allowed to meet up over a ‘number of days, maybe five days’.

The Daily Mail however has said up to four families could be allowed to form a coronavirus ‘bubble’, which can meet indoors from Christmas Eve through to December 28.

Full details of Christmas relaxation plans are not expected until after the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have consulted their own cabinets.

When will a decision be made?

The Cabinet Office said that work was continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel.

The Cabinet Office said talks are continuing to finalise the agreement, including over travel arrangements, but that it is hoped the conclusion will come ‘this week’, while the Scottish Government said ‘no agreement has been reached’.

Does this mean Christmas has been saved?

It would seem so.

But even if families are allowed to meet over the festive period, experts are warning that it could lead to more stringent restrictions once the turkey has finally been finished.

Why will stricter restrictions be needed?

Statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said that any relaxation of restrictions will lead to a rise in infection rates.

Sir David, statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge, also warned that it takes longer for rates to fall than to rise.

He told Times Radio: ‘If there’s got to be an exception it will be for a brief period over Christmas and that’s purely because it is Christmas.

‘There will be a price to pay for it, obviously, you relax restrictions and infection rates go up, you constrain and infection rates will come down as they are going down at the moment.’

‘This is not a symmetrical thing, you don’t have one day off and one day on.

‘It increases a lot faster than it gets better again – it is not a symmetric process.’

So is it going to be a long, dark January in lockdown then?

Not so fast.

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University, has said that while some restrictions might be needed after the festive period, these might not need to be ‘draconian’.

Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Prof Semple, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), agreed with estimates that every day of relaxation would require five days of tighter restrictions.

But he added: ‘I think in the round it’s right, but it shouldn’t be seen that it is going to be draconian restrictions, it’s just going to prolong restrictions and higher-level restriction for some areas.’

Tests will offer freedom in SEVEN days: Boris Johnson is set to unveil plans for a £7billion coronavirus screening revolution in bid to cut self-isolation time by half 

Boris Johnson is to unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative.

The move will allow thousands to get back to normal life even if they have come into contact with an infected person.

Tens of millions of fast-turnaround tests will also be made available to areas put in the highest level of the new tiered system of Covid restrictions.

Boris Johnson will today unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative

Boris Johnson will today unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative

The scheme will deploy new ‘lateral flow tests’ which have been trialled in Liverpool and can produce results within 30 minutes.

Ministers believe they could revolutionise the test and trace system, which has struggled to persuade people to self-isolate for the full 14 days.

Under a new system, those who come into contact with an infected person will be able to take a Covid test every day for a week.

If they test negative they will be able to go about their lives as normal. After seven days of negative tests they will be released from the system. Trials of the scheme will begin this week in Liverpool, where the Army has been helping to conduct the first mass testing of an entire city.

If successful, the project will be rolled out for NHS staff next month, before being made available to everyone from January.

Fast-turnaround tests will also be used to enable care home visits this winter. Downing Street last night confirmed that ministers hope to be able to allow residents to receive regular visits from two loved ones.

Named visitors will be tested twice a week. Negative tests will allow people to visit their loved ones and drop social distancing requirements. 

A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘Crucially, visitors will be able to have physical contact, such as a hug or holding hands with their loved ones.’

Trials have already begun in 20 care homes ahead of a national rollout planned for next month.

Care workers looking after people in their homes will also be offered weekly tests from today.

The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan to be announced by the PM today.

It is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year.

Ministers believe mass testing could play a critical role in enabling society to open up again in the coming months.

Plans are also being drawn up for the development of so-called ‘freedom passes’, which could allow people to attend events like live theatre and sport matches.

But these are not likely to be available until the New Year.

In the short term, the tests will be deployed mainly to help bring the pandemic under control.

Mass testing will be made available to all areas placed in the ‘very high risk’ category of the updated three-tier system the PM will roll out today.

The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year

The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year

Sources said trials in Liverpool had shown the tests had proved effective in detecting cases in people with no symptoms, helping to break the chain of transmission and bring down case numbers more quickly.

Weekly tests will also be made available to people in high risk occupations, including prisons and food processing plants.

Teams of people delivering the new vaccines in the coming months will also be eligible for regular testing.

Twice-weekly testing has already begun in the NHS to help identify asymptomatic cases and prevent outbreaks in hospitals.

Care home staff will have testing doubled from weekly to twice weekly from next month. Care home residents will be offered tests weekly rather than the current once a month.

Universities will also be offered testing capacity to test students wanting to travel home to their families at Christmas

 

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