Manchester will find out which tier it has been placed in later this week

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the current lockdown period will end on December 2nd but will be replaced by an updated three-tier Covid alert system.

“Without sensible precautions, we risk a winter surge,” he told the House of Commons through a live video link from 10 Downing Street. “So we’re going to go back to a regional tier approach, applying the highest tiers where cases were most prevalent.” 

Once again, the hospitality sector seems to be taking the brunt of restrictions

Information regarding which tier every region will be put into will be announced on Thursday after the current data has been fully examined. However, restrictions are expected to be even tighter than they were before the most recent lockdown, with even more areas likely to be placed in high or very high-risk tiers. Although Boris Johnson said a ‘uniform set of rules’ would be laid out, he also mentioned that the government would be open to ‘negotiations at regional level.’ 

2020 11 23 Boris Johnson Winter Plan
Boris Johnson is currently self-isolating after coming into contact with a fellow MP who subsequently tested positive, so made today's announcement through video call Sky News

Gyms and non-essential shops in all areas will be allowed to reopen when lockdown ends at the beginning of December but once again, the hospitality sector seems to be taking the brunt of restrictions.

Pubs and restaurants in tier three will have to remain closed except for takeaway, delivery or ‘click and collect’, while in tier two, only those serving alcohol with ‘substantial’ meals can open. 

Although last orders will still be at 10pm, the ridiculous curfew has been relaxed a little allowing for an extra hour’s drinking up time until 11pm. Hotels will have to close for guests, but their restaurants will be allowed to offer delivery and takeaways. 

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William Lees Jones

Brewery boss William Lees-Jones appeared on BBC Breakfast today arguing that pubs should be allowed to remain open. “We’ve invested millions to make pubs safe and we’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see what tiers will look like,” he said.

Restaurant owners, pub bosses and industry experts have taken to social media to criticise the latest hospitality restrictions.

After the recent pilot programme in Liverpool, where over 200,000 people took part in mass testing, contributing to a significant fall in the region’s infection rates, community testing is to be rolled out in other tier three areas over a six-week period.

“We expect more areas to fall into higher tiers than before,” said the Prime Minister, “but with extensive testing it should be possible for areas to move more rapidly down the tiers.”

Johnson added, “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.”

This announcement comes on the same day that the team behind the Oxford vaccine published promising results. The Prime Minister disclosed that the government has purchased more than enough doses to provide immunisation for the whole of the UK and overseas territories.

“As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will dispense it as soon as possible to identify those without symptoms so we can identify those and prevent transmission. By the spring these restrictions should make the idea of lockdown redundant,” he said.

The latest plans will apply to the upcoming Christmas period and beyond. The government has been in discussion with counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so the UK's four nations can agree on plans to allow some household mixing "for a small number of days" over Christmas.

Christmas Jumper
Christmas will be a bit different this year

“We all want some kind of Christmas,” said the Prime Minister. “We feel we need it and deserve it, but we don’t want the virus to flare up again, so we’re working on a special time-limited Christmas dispensation.” But he admitted that ‘this virus is not going to allow us a Christmas truce’ so encouraged individual households to assess and manage the risks in their own households.

“Christmas cannot be normal and we must turn a corner before spring,” he said. “Everyone can continue to speed up that moment by pulling together.”  

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