The Prime Minister has clarified what will happen after the November lockdown ends.
The proposed end of England’s November lockdown is coming into view, and naturally the question on everyone’s lips is what will happen once December 2 arrives. Today, we got our answer. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been addressing the House of Commons this afternoon to outline the government’s plan for December, and promised that at long last, “we can see a route out of the pandemic”. He’s revealed that the lockdown will end on December 2, and England will return to the three tiered system that was put in place before the November lockdown. However, there are a few changes to the system that have been revealed today as part of the December restrictions.
When the lockdown expires at 00:01 on the morning of December 2, cities and regions across England will re-enter the same tier system that preceded the November lockdown. We’re expected to find out on Thursday which tier Manchester will be entering. Not every area that entered lockdown in one tier will return to that same tier, as it’s expected that more areas will be placed in Tier 2 (high alert) and Tier 3 (very high alert) next month, although Johnson noted this would hopefully be temporary.
There will, as mentioned, be a few changes to the tier system, which are being made tougher to further combat the spread of the virus. Before we get to those, however, here’s a quick reminder of the basic restrictions at each tier:
Tier 1 (medium alert)
Similar to the restrictions in place before the tier system was introduced, Tier 1 saw a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants and a ban on gatherings of more than six people. We were also asked to work from home where possible.
Tier 2 (high alert)
At Tier 2, there are bans on indoor household mixing, with only outdoor gatherings of up to six permitted. Only pubs serving food were allowed to remain open, with so-called “wet pubs” serving drinks only forced to close.
Tier 3 (very high alert)
Areas seeing a particularly high concentration of coronavirus cases prior to lockdown entered Tier 3, where pubs and bars could only remain open if they operated as a restaurant, gyms closed (although were later allowed to reopen), and a ban on households or bubbles mixing in any setting was enforced. Indoor entertainment and hotels were also closed at this level, and will remain so in December.
What are the new December restrictions?
Changes to the tier system will be felt at every level, but most of the new rules are concentrated around Tiers 2 & 3. First up is a change to hospitality ruling which affects all tiers, as the 10pm curfew will be pushed back an hour. From December 2, last orders will remain at 10pm, but we’ll be allowed an extra hour to polish off our drinks and meals before having to leave. Critics of the 10pm curfew had noted that it encouraged people to all leave at the same time – so the hope is that the extension will lead to a smoother exit come closing time, as well as giving beleaguered hospitality spots time to squeeze in another round of service before the new 11pm curfew.
A couple of other changes to the hospitality industry to note; at Tier 2, pubs, bars, and restaurants will only be allowed to serve alcohol with a “substantial meal”, whilst at Tier 3, pubs and restaurants will be permitted to offer takeaway and delivery only.
The government has also pledged to bring mass coronavirus testing to all Tier 3 areas in England, in what will amount to a six week surge of testing. Mass testing, which uses antigen lateral flow devices to identify positive cases, had been trialled in Liverpool earlier this month before being rolled out across high-population areas, including Manchester.
The new tier system provides greater leeway for exercise and sporting activities. Outdoor grassroots sport (i.e. your village cricket team, community football club, etc) is set to be allowed regardless of tier, and gyms will be allowed to reopen at all tiers. We’ve also been told that up to 4000 fans will be allowed to attend sporting events in Tier 1 areas, with up to 2000 fans in Tier 2 – for indoor events, those numbers are, respectively, 2000 and 1000. Attendance will still be forbidden in Tier 3 areas. For those who prefer retail therapy to sporting activities, non-essential shops will be permitted to open in all areas, irrespective of which tier they’re at. Finally, weddings and worship services will be allowed to resume.
The plans will now be submitted for a vote in the House of Commons for legal approval. Johnson said that the measures have been “designed to carry us safely to spring”, and expressed his hope that our winter of sacrifice and restrictions would “make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant” by the time spring rolls around. Indeed, spring is the point at which the recent developments in creating a Covid vaccine could make rolling it out to the entire population a possibility. On this point, the Prime Minister said “As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will work on dispensing it as soon as possible”.
What about Christmas?
Johnson had originally been expected to make an announcement about the coronavirus restrictions we can expect over the Christmas holidays today – with plenty of rumours flying around in the media about multiple households meeting up during the Christmas break. Final confirmation of the plans has been delayed in order to allow the Welsh and Scottish governments to agree to a unified approach to the rules, as Johnson confirmed that the government is working on a unified approach across the UK’s four devolved nations. Though he warned we “don’t want to throw caution to the winds” and be forced back into lockdown in January, the Prime Minister noted the importance of spending Christmas with families. A formal announcement on the exact regulations is expected tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24), and we’ll bring you updates on this as soon as news arrives.