Lockdown: The Latest News To Know

Lockdown: The Latest News To Know

Last night, prime minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation to lay out his Covid winter plan once the country exits its second national lockdown on 2nd December. From tougher tier restrictions to the latest updates on gyms, pubs, restaurants and more, here’s what you need to know…

What’s The Latest?

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement last night, the prime minister has confirmed England’s second national lockdown will be lifted on 2nd December and replaced with a three-tiered system of restrictions. Unveiling his 64-page ‘Covid Winter Plan’ to the Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson said the incoming system was “designed to carry us safely to spring” – with no need for another national lockdown between then and now, based on news of an effective vaccine and plans to roll out rapid and mass testing across the country. The plan, which expires at the end of March, will put various areas across England into one of three tiers, specifics of which will not be released until Thursday 26th November. However, the PM has warned that “more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before”, with no room for negotiation with local leaders. This time, he said, the tier system would follow a “uniform” set of guidelines.

  • Work & Non-Essential Retail…

As far as detail goes, Mr Johnson said people in all tiers should continue to work from home where possible. But non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will gyms, hairdressers and other personal care businesses.

  • Socialising & Mixing…

For those socialising in Tier 1 areas, the rule of six will apply – with households able to mix in groups of up to six people both indoors and outdoors. In Tiers 2 and 3, groups of up to six can only mix outside – although the PM is expected to announce some relaxation of this rule over the Christmas break – details of which will also follow later this week.

  • Hospitality & Events…

Places of worship are also set to reopen and limited numbers of spectators will be able to attend sports events in tiers one and two. Hospitality venues will also open as usual in tier one, but in tier two, alcohol can only be served with meals, and in tier three, businesses can only open for delivery and takeaway services. In the lower tiers, the previous 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants has been lifted. Venues must instead stop serving at 10pm before closing by 11pm, allowing punters time to finish their food and drink.  

And What’s The Timeframe?

Once imposed, the tiers will be reviewed every 14 days, with restrictions either tightened or relaxed in each area depending on five criteria: Covid-19 case numbers across all age groups; cases in those aged over 60; the rate of infection; the test positivity rate; and pressure on local NHS services.

Was Anything Said About Testing Or The Vaccine?

The PM hailed two scientific breakthroughs, both of which he said will make both national lockdowns and even the tier system measures obsolete by approximately next March. The first is an approved vaccine. According to the PM, the government has ordered 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and 350m doses across all vaccine manufacturers. It plans to administer a vaccine across the UK and all of its overseas territories, with an immunisation programme due to start next month. 

But seeing as a vaccine can’t be administered to everyone overnight, the government is also pouring its efforts into a second breakthrough – rapid turnaround testing with results deliverable in 30 minutes. These tests are expected to be deployed across the NHS frontline and care homes first. 

Then, the government plans to roll out weekly tests for workers in the food manufacturing and prisons sectors, as well as those in charge of administering vaccines. Rapid testing will also be used to help schools and universities stay open, specifically to help send students home for the Christmas break, and go back to their studies in the New Year.

As part of the plan, all local authorities in tier three will be offered a six-week surge in mass testing. While Johnson admitted it wasn’t clear yet how successful this would be, the idea is that those who test negative will be allowed to ease their own restrictions, including the ability to meet up with others. It should also help bring about an end to automatic isolation of those who are brought into contact with someone who tests positive. As long as contacts are tested every day for a week and don’t themselves test positive, there won’t be any need for them to isolate. 

What’s The Reaction Been?

The PM called 2020 “a tragic year when so many have lost loved ones” and this will “still be a hard winter”. And while he believes “there's a long road to spring” he claims the UK has turned a corner and “the escape route is in sight”. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also hailed the "tremendous progress on vaccines" offering his party’s full support towards the national effort to deliver the vaccine safely nationwide. But he also said the PM's proposals to return to the three-tier system "risky" as it previously ended up in a national lockdown. 

Finally, UK Hospitality's chief executive Kate Nicholls said the new tier guidelines only rubbed “salt into the wounds” of many of the country’s pubs and restaurants. Nicholls said that under the rules that were in place before the current lockdown came into force, some 76% of the organisation’s members warned that if tier two restrictions remained in place for three months, their business “would not be viable”. She said under the new rules that “large swathes will just not be able to open at all.”

So, What’s Left To Come?

At the moment, the government is working with devolved powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to thrash out a common set of rules to cover the Christmas break. At present, rumours say the plan is to allow up to four households to mix for a set period, between 22nd and 28th December. However, whispers say Scotland’s first minister Nichola Sturgeon wants to see this lowered to three.

An update on Christmas, as well as more details about which areas fall into which tiers is due from the prime minister on Thursday.

For more information on The Covid Winter Plan, click here.

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