This afternoon the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan to Parliament, which will come into effect when national lockdown restrictions in England end on 2nd December. Notably, restrictions will be lifted in three key areas next Thursday:
- 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.
- Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.
A new, stricter three-tier system will be implemented, with each tier subject tougher restrictions than previously, e.g. alcohol can now only be served as part of substantial meal in tier 2 areas. It will be announced this Thursday which tiers are being imposed on regions, with such judgements being made on the basis of analysis of cases, the ‘R’ rate, percentage of positive tests, and NHS pressures. More regions will fall into higher tiers, but there will be further support available to reduce the ‘R’ in in tier 3 areas through increased testing.
There are also some key alterations to the upcoming tier system that are less restrictive – there will be an 11pm hospitality curfew instead of 10pm in applicable tiers, and in tiers 1 and 2 spectator sports and business events can resume with certain measures in place such as capacity limits.
The Prime Minister is due to lead a press conference this evening at 7pm in order to reiterate aspects of his Covid-19 Winter Plan to the country. Later this week on Wednesday, the Chancellor is due to unveil the Comprehensive Spending Review, which will outline the resources allocated to each Government Department for 2021-22. An announcement this week is also expected on how families and friends will be able to meet over Christmas.
See below for a summary of the Prime Minister’s statement and his exchange with the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer:
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
- We can see a route out of the pandemic following breakthroughs in testing and vaccines. By spring 2021, these advances should reduce the need for many restrictions. The winter plan is designed to carry us safely to spring.
- The incidence of coronavirus is still widespread in many areas so we will go back to a regional tiered approach. The previous tiers were not enough to cut the ‘R’ to below 1. The scientific advice is to make tiers tougher. Tiers will now also be a uniform set of rules and there will be no negotiations on additional measures with regions.
- The key stricter changes to the regional tiers will be as follows:
- Tier 1 – people should work from home wherever possible.
- Tier 2 – alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal.
- Tier 3 – indoor entertainment, hotels and outdoor entertainment will have to close, along with all forms of hospitality except for delivery and takeaways.
- The key relaxations to the regional tiers will be as follows:
- There will be an 11pm curfew for hospitality instead of 10pm.
- In tiers 1 and 2, spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatre and concert halls.
- Enforcement abilities of local authorities will be strengthened, including specially trained officers and new powers to close down premises.
- More regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher tiers than before. By using tougher tiers and rapid turnaround tests on a greater scale it should be possible for areas to move down the tier scale.
- By putting pressure on the virus, we can enable people to see more of their family and friends over Christmas. It will not be normal at Christmas. We are working with the devolved administrations on a special time-limited Christmas dispensation across the UK. Families will need to make careful judgements about seeing elderly relatives.
- As soon as vaccine is approved, it will be dispensed as quickly as possible. We will simultaneously use the rapid turnaround tests so that people will once again be able to meet with loved ones. By the end of the year, testing will allow every care home resident to have two visitors who will be tested twice per week. Care workers looking after those in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today. From next month, weekly tests will be available to prison staff, manufacturing employees, and those administering Covid vaccines. Testing also will enable students to know that they can go home for Christmas
- We are launching a major community testing programme, offering all local authorities under tier 3 restrictions a six-week surge of testing. The system is untried and there are many unknowns, but we should be able to offer those who have test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions.
- We will use testing to end the automatic isolation of those close contacts of those who have tested positive. Beginning in Liverpool, contacts will be tested every day for a week and will only need to isolate if they test positive. If successful, this will be extended across the health system next month and the whole of England in January.
- We have ordered more than enough vaccines for everyone in the UK and overseas territories. The NHS is preparing an immunisation programme for next month.
- The escape route is in site, we must hold out against the virus until testing and vaccines come to our rescue.
Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition
- The work of Oxford is remarkable in producing a vaccine.
- Labour will provide support in the national effort to deliver vaccines across the country.
- The return to the three-tier system is risky because the previous system didn’t work. Many questions remain:
- Which local areas will be in each tier? These decisions must be taken quickly and clearly.
- Will the tiers be imposed or will there be an element of local consultation? Imposition runs the risk of not getting buy-in of local communities.
- How long will each local area remain in each tier?
- Will there be a new economic package to accompany these tiers? There are business worries about viability in tier 3.
- Will the self-employed who are excluded receive further support?
- The trace and isolate parts of the system are not fit for purpose. 120,000 close contacts are not being traced every week.
- How confident is the Prime Minister that his approach will keep the ‘R’ rate below 1? If it doesn’t work we could be back in a national lockdown.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
- These measures are the right thing for the country. We want to get the economy moving whilst suppressing the virus.
- The tier announcement will be made on Thursday because we need to see the data as it comes in. We will work with local authorities about which tiers they will be in.
- NHS Test and Trace has helped identify areas with the greatest prevalence of disease and helped us drive down disease. It has done more than any other country in Europe. The new lateral flow tests will obviate the need for the isolation period.
- Science is riding to our rescue so that we are able to come out of the lockdown next Wednesday.