Boris Johnson has announced a new three tier system of restrictions from 2 December when the current lockdown in England ends, describing it as a “big push to spring” – but has warned Christmas will not be normal.
All pubs and restaurants will remain closed in Tier 3 areas under the government’s new Winter Plan. The 10pm curfew has been scrapped for Tier 2 and Tier 1 regions, with last orders at 10pm and closing time moved to 11pm instead.
Gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers can re-open in all tiers and up to six people can meet outdoors.
The new tier system is expected to last until the end of March.
The prime minister said there would be separate rules for the Christmas period which would be released later this week but warned in advance the festive season would not be normal and asked people to make a “careful judgement” on meeting elderly family members.
Johnson said he was very sorry to hospitality businesses which will have to remain closed in tier 3; however he said the escape route was "in sight" with advances in vaccines.
“I’m acutely conscious that no other peacetime prime minister has asked so much of the British people.
“The hard truth is that 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 when the burden on the NHS is always greatest. Our winter plan is designed to carry us safety to spring,” he said.
Johnson said the new tiers will be uniform with no negotiations with local councils on different rules for specific areas. Specially trained council officers will be given new powers to close down venues that are a risk to public health, he added.
From next Wednesday spectator sports can re-start in Tiers 1 and 2, both indoors and outdoors, with limited capacities.
On Christmas, the prime minister said: “What we don’t want is to throw caution to the wind and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us back into lockdown in January.
“This virus is obviously not going to grant us a Christmas truce. It doesn’t know it’s Christmas and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.”
Rapid turn-around testing will also be ramped up with every care home resident allowed to have two visitors who can be tested twice a week.
From December weekly tests will be available to those staff in prisons, food manufacturing and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said a tier system was “risky” as the previous system did not work and resulted in national lockdown. He said businesses needed to know which tier they would be in earlier than Thursday.
He also asked if there would be more economic support for those in the tougher tier 3.
What you need to know
Tier 1: Pubs and restaurants can open with table service only. Last orders by 10pm and closed by 11pm.
Tier 2: Venues will be required to serve substantial meals if they want to sell alcohol with traditional “wet” bars forced to close. Households are not allowed to mix indoors, but a maximum of six people from multiple households are able to meet outdoors.
Tier 3: All hospitality venues closed with exception of sales by takeaway or click and collect.
Tier 1: Household mixing is up to six indoors or outdoors, other than single households (which may exceed six) and support bubbles.
Tier 2: No mixing of households indoors apart from support bubbles and a maximum of six outdoors.
Tier 3: No household mixing at all.
Shops, gyms, swimming, personal care will all reopen in all three tiers. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume and people will no longer be limited to meeting one household in outdoor places and will revert to the rule of six.
Spectator sport can resume with capacity limits and social distancing.
Tier 1: stadiums will be limited to 50% of capacity or 4000 spectators, whichever is lower.
Tier 2: a cap of 50% capacity or 2000 people, whichever is lower.
In Tier 1 and 2 there will be a maximum cap of 1000 for indoor events.
Tier 3: no spectator sports allowed.
Museums and galleries will be allowed to reopen in Tier 1 and 2 but must remain shut in Tier 3 areas.
People in all tiers will be asked to work from home if possible until the measures are lifted.
A version of this story first appeared on CSW's sister site PoliticsHome