England’s current national lockdown will end just after midnight on Wednesday 2 December.
After that, the tiered system will return with the government insisting the tiers will be tougher than in October.
Announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 23 November the 64 page Covid-19 Winter Plan set out the tiered system.
The tiers will be named ‘Medium’, ‘High alert’ and ‘Very high alert’.
In order to control the virus effectively, it is likely that more of the country is placed into tiers 2 and 3 at first, as part of the continued effort to suppress infections and protect NHS capacity.
Across all tiers shops, gyms and personal care services will all reopen. People will no longer be limited to seeing one other person outdoors. However, the rule of six will apply in outdoor public spaces. Non-essential foreign travel will be allowed, subject to quarantine rules.
There will be different rules for different sectors depending on the tier that the region is placed in.
For pubs and restaurants in tier one, they will be able to open until 23:00 GMT, with last orders at 22:00. In tier two, they can only open if they serve substantial meals. Alcohol can be served with that meal. In tier three, hospitality venues must close apart from delivery and takeaway
Entertainment venues will be allowed to be open in tier 1 and 2 but indoor venues in tier 3 or very high alert will be closed.
Travelling across the tiers will also vary. The government is encouraging those in tier 1 to walk or cycle and avoid travelling into tier 3 areas unless it is for work, education, or medical services.
The regions that will be placed in tier 2 are being urged to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. They are also being advised against travelling into tier 3 areas.
Tier 3 areas are being told to not travel outside of the high-risk areas unless necessary for work, education or medical services. They are also being urged to reduce the number of journeys they make.
For places of worship, weddings and funerals there are also a variety of guidelines in each tier.
In tiers 1 those worshipping will not be able to interact with more than 6 people. Meanwhile in tier 2 and 3 they cannot interact with anyone outside their households or support bubble.
15 guests will be allowed across all sectors for weddings, civil partnerships, receptions and wakes. Only tier 3 will be banned from holding a wedding reception.
30 guests will be allowed across all settings for funerals.
Exercise is allowed across all the sectors outdoors but indoor activity differs. In tier 1 the rule of six must be observed, in tier 2 and 3 it cannot take place indoors if it involves people from different households.
Spectator events have not taken place in this country since early March due to the pandemic.
Under the tiered system, sport and live events will allow crowds into venues, but they will vary across the UK.
In tier 1 it can resume with 50 per cent capacity or 4,000 spectators, whichever is smaller.
In tier 2 it can restart with 50 per cent of capacity or 2,000 spectators, whichever is smaller.
However, sport or live events cannot restart in tier 3.
The Health Secretary revealed that West Yorkshire will be among the areas being placed Tier 3
It means residents across Bradford and Kirklees will be under the toughest measures from the 2 December until the R rate has been brought under control. The measures will be reviewed in two weeks and then reviewed periodically to see if the virus is being controlled.
Matt Hancock speaking in the House of Commons said: “The less anyone passes on the disease, the faster we can get the disease under control together. Regardless of your tier, we must all think of our own responsibilities.”
It means restaurants will have to remain closed except for takeaways. You cannot worship with anyone other than from your household. Spectator sports and events will not be able to take place.
Reacting to the announcement Bradford Council Leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe said: “The Tier 3 restrictions that the Government has announced will apply to the Bradford District from next Wednesday (2 December). Our infection rates are going down so I welcome the opportunity of a regular review of these arrangements so that we can exit as soon as possible.
The restrictions must come with more government funding to support the many local businesses and their supply chains which have been battling restrictions for months now. The risk is, even with furlough, that many businesses will simply fold and cut their losses. This is particularly true of businesses in the supply chain of the leisure and hospitality sector who have not been eligible for business grants but whose customer base has been closed or restricted for long periods.
“The good news is that non-essential retail can re-open at the busiest time of the year. But Bradford and West Yorkshire are going to need significant investment going forward to support businesses and jobs. I’m already making the case to the Government.
“I am also asking the Government to review the system for payments to low-paid people who must self-isolate and cannot work from home. Many are not qualifying for the standard scheme and the discretionary grants are running out.
“We’re pleased to see the rate of infection declining in the district. I thank residents across the district for working with us on this at considerable costs to themselves. But we know our hospitals are still under immense pressure so we are not out of the woods yet.
“There is a need for sustained vigilance. Overall the core messages of hands, face, space; restrict social interaction; get a test if you have symptoms, and self-isolate if asked to remain the most important. Only by following those core messages will we prevent the spread of this destructive virus.”
Reacting to the announcement Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “We’re turning a corner in Kirklees, with our infection rates dropping by 18 per cent this week but we know we still have a long way to go. We’re not surprised that the Government has announced Kirklees is in Tier 3, with our rates currently the fifth highest in the country.
“We’ll follow the restrictions, as we always do, and will continue to do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus in our communities. This will be supported by our ongoing work directly in communities, a local test and trace system which we’ll launch soon and we have cross-party support in Kirklees for mass COVID-19 testing to be rolled out.
“Our rates have dropped the last two weeks in a row, as well as hospital admissions and COVID-19-related deaths. We need to build on this to get out of Tier 3 as quickly as possible. My plea to residents is to play your part by following the Tier 3 restrictions as well as continuing to do the basics such as regular hand-washing, social distancing, wearing a face covering, and self-isolating, and getting tested if you have symptoms. If we all continue to play our part, we’ll get where we need to be.
“I’m pleased non-essential retailers can reopen from 2 December, especially at such a crucial time of year. I’d like to urge everyone to shop safe and shop local this Christmas and support our businesses who need us now more than ever.
“There is something we cannot ignore, and that’s how devastating today’s announcement is for our hospitality sector. Pubs, bars, restaurants, and others who cannot open under Tier 3 restrictions have gone above and beyond to keep their customers safe throughout this pandemic. I’m urging the Government to think more creatively about these restrictions and about how it can support the sector and the supply chain that relies on it so they are not laying more misery on these businesses.”
The measures announced by Boris Johnson are to help keep the coronavirus R rate down so that measures can be relaxed for families over Christmas.
All four nations of the United Kingdom agreed on 24 November to universally lift certain restrictions over the festive period.
Across the UK, people will be able to form “bubbles” of three households over a five-day period.
Between 23 and 27 December, the three households will be allowed to form a temporary “Christmas bubble”. They can mix indoors and stay overnight.
Bubbles will be allowed to meet in each other’s homes, at places of worship or in an outdoor public space, or garden
The bubbles will be fixed, so you will not be able to mix with two households on Christmas Day and two different ones on Boxing Day. Households in your Christmas bubble can’t bubble with anyone else.
In England if you have formed a support bubble with another household, that counts as one house, so you can join with two other households in a Christmas bubble.
People who are self-isolating should not join a Christmas bubble. If someone tests positive, or develops coronavirus symptoms up to 48 hours after the Christmas bubble last met, everyone will have to self-isolate.
You will not be allowed to go with your Christmas bubble to hospitality settings, such as pubs and restaurants, or to entertainment venues.
The relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas could lead to a third wave and “more unnecessary deaths” according to SAGE
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has described allowing three households to mix for up to five days in a bid to allow families to reunite to some extent at Christmas as “throwing fuel on the Covid fire”.
Speaking on BBC Newsnight Professor Hayward said: “I think it will definitely lead to increased transmission”.
“It is likely to lead to a third wave of infection, with hospitals being overrun, and more unnecessary deaths.
“We are still in a country where we have got high levels of infection with Covid, particularly in young people.
“Bringing them together for hours, let alone days, with elderly relatives, I think, is a recipe for regret for many families.
“With the vaccine on the way, if we are not very careful over Christmas we are really in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on this one.”
British Medical Association UK council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “This virus does not discriminate against certain days of the year.
“Relaxing the rules on indoor mixing for a five-day period will almost certainly carry the risk of a rise in infection rate and possibly more hospitalisation and deaths, adding further pressure on the health service, doctors and NHS staff.”
Dr Nagpaul said it is “absolutely vital” people take safety precautions if mixing with other households, such as ventilating rooms and limiting physical contact when masks are not worn.
The government’s own Covid Winter Plan admits that the easing of restriction at Christmas will likely lead to an increase in transmission and, historically, the period after Christmas is when the NHS sees the greatest pressure on services such as Accident & Emergency and the highest rates of bed occupancy.
There has been anger from members of the South Asian community who were not allowed to celebrate their festivals earlier in the year. Eid was cancelled the night before at 10pm with planned celebrations having to be drastically changed in a short amount of time. Earlier this month Diwali celebrations had to be altered as it took place during the second national lockdown meaning families had to alter the way they celebrated.
In the Covid Winter Plan, it acknowledges the sacrifices that people of all faiths have made this year; restrictions have been in place over a number of religious celebrations and observances, and it is thanks to these sacrifices that it has been possible to control the virus.
Some parts of the community were not impressed that their religious festivals were not given the same consideration that the government is giving to Christmas.
The Health Secretary faced questions on the considerations for other religions at a social care select committee.
Matt Hancock was asked if the government has considered the perception of fairness when they are looking to Christmas?
He responded: “I’m very sensitive to this point, we did think about it and we engaged, and we discussed it. The conclusion that we have come to, which I agree with very strongly is that Christmas is a national holiday. It is the biggest national holiday we have. Of course, it has particular importance for Christians, but it is an important national holiday for everybody in this country. Whilst we considered the impact on those of other faiths and none. Christmas is a special time for everyone in this country.”
Responding to the lockdown measures easing over Christmas Bradford Council Leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe said: “Of course I want everyone to have a wonderful Christmas but the risk of allowing people to socialise in bigger groups, and a resulting potential increase in infection rates early in the New Year, is a very real one and does worry me. I don’t want us to squander the progress we’ve made.
“It is clearly a risk the Government feels is worth taking to enable families to see each other at Christmas. However, I would urge everyone to take great care to heed the ‘wash hands, cover face, make space’ messages, even when mixing with close family, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent more tragic deaths.
“A number of our nation’s usual religious festivals have been disrupted this year. Bradford District is a place where we have vibrant faith communities so we’ve had a mournful year with Easter, Eid, and Diwali all having been impacted by restrictions. As Leader of a richly diverse place I just want to acknowledge the members of other faith communities who’ve not been afforded the same concessions this year. But regardless of how subdued we choose to make Christmas or any other religious festivals this year, around the corner 2021 should signal a gradual roll-out of a vaccination programme to enable us to get back to relatively normal lives. And that’s the best Christmas present any of us, no matter what our background, can hope for.”