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Covid-19: Strengthened tier system for England after lockdown Covid-19: Strengthened tier system for England after lockdown
(about 1 hour later)
Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops have been closed in England since 5 November, under a second national lockdown
A tougher three-tiered system of local restrictions will come into force in England when the lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said.A tougher three-tiered system of local restrictions will come into force in England when the lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said.
Boris Johnson is expected to set out his plan - including details of how families can see different households at Christmas - to MPs on Monday.Boris Johnson is expected to set out his plan - including details of how families can see different households at Christmas - to MPs on Monday.
More areas are set to be placed into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control, No 10 said.More areas are set to be placed into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control, No 10 said.
And some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard lockdown progress.And some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard lockdown progress.
It is not yet clear exactly how restrictions could change - but it is understood the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will be extended. Some local measures will be the same as those in the previous three-tier system, which was in place in England until the current lockdown began.
Mr Johnson is expected to say that, while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks. But the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is expected to publish research on Monday saying the previous restrictions were not strong enough.
Full details of the so-called "Covid winter plan" are expected on Monday, after cabinet discussions on Sunday. The government will identify the tiers that each area will be placed into on Thursday.
What are the current rules where you live?What are the current rules where you live?
England tiers may need strengthening - adviserEngland tiers may need strengthening - adviser
Ministers want 'greater consistency' in tier systemMinisters want 'greater consistency' in tier system
A No 10 spokeswoman said: "Everyone's efforts during the current national restrictions have helped bring the virus back under control, slowed its spread and eased pressures on the NHS. Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC's Andrew Marr the 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants was one of the things it was looking to "refine".
"But the prime minister and his scientific advisers are clear the virus is still present - and without regional restrictions it could quickly run out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect. It is understood rules will be relaxed to give people an extra hour to finish their food and drinks after last orders at 10pm.
"That would put in jeopardy the progress the country has made, and once again risk intolerable pressure on the NHS." Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said this would help businesses - but would be "meaningless" unless people were allowed to socialise with friends and family, particularly over the crucial Christmas period.
Some local measures will be the same as those in the previous three tier system, used in England to tackle the spread of coronavirus up until the current lockdown began.
But the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is expected to publish research on Monday saying that measures in the previous tiers were not strong enough.
The prime minister will acknowledge that the measures are difficult, while making clear they are not to last longer than is absolutely necessary, and that the need to support the economy is being taken into account.
English tier system - at a glanceEnglish tier system - at a glance
Pre-lockdown, there were three tiers of restrictions - medium, high, and very high:Pre-lockdown, there were three tiers of restrictions - medium, high, and very high:
Medium / Tier 1: Rule of six if meeting indoors or outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pmMedium / Tier 1: Rule of six if meeting indoors or outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pm
High / Tier 2: No household mixing indoors; rule of six applies outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pmHigh / Tier 2: No household mixing indoors; rule of six applies outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pm
Very high / Tier 3: No household mixing indoors or in some outdoor spaces; pubs and bars not serving meals are closedVery high / Tier 3: No household mixing indoors or in some outdoor spaces; pubs and bars not serving meals are closed
It comes after newspaper reports suggested families could be allowed to meet for as long as a week over Christmas as part of a UK-wide relaxation of coronavirus rules. Newspaper reports suggest rules could be temporarily relaxed UK-wide over Christmas. Several families could be allowed to join in one "bubble" and mix between 22 and 28 December, according to the Daily Telegraph.
According to the Daily Telegraph, several families could be allowed to join in one "bubble" and mix between 22 and 28 December. Ministers have made clear the festive season will be different to normal - with some restrictions expected to remain in place.
The plan will include guidance on how people will be able to celebrate Christmas, but ministers have made clear the festive season will be different to normal - with some restrictions expected to remain in place. BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said conversations about Christmas between the different nations of the UK were ongoing.
The government will identify the tiers that each area will be placed into on Thursday. But a plan is unlikely to be signed off in time for the prime minister's announcement on Monday.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the extension of the curfew time would help businesses but it "becomes meaningless" if people are not allowed to socialise with friends and family at pubs and restaurants, particularly over the crucial Christmas period. The four nations have different Covid rules but ministers are hoping to agree a joint approach for the festive period.
Prof Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool, said he hoped it would be possible to relax some restrictions over Christmas if the new tiered system worked but warned "there will be a price", including tighter restrictions in the future.
However, with the possibility of a vaccine being rolled out next year, Prof Semple, who is a member of Sage, told Sky News' Sophy Ridge there was "a lot to be optimistic about".
He said he expected mass vaccination of the general population to happen towards next summer, which would give "broad immunity" and allow a "return back to normal".
MPs are expected to vote on the new system in the days before it comes into force.
Many Conservative MPs are opposed to stricter measures - 70 have signed a letter coordinated by the recently-formed Covid Recovery Group (CRG), saying they cannot support a tiered approach unless they see evidence measures "will save more lives than they cost".
Earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled by voting against the current lockdown and 17 more, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, abstained.
In a letter to the prime minister on Saturday, the CRG, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, warned against inflicting "huge health and economic costs".
The letter said: "We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions, and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season, only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihood."
Asked whether he would publish a cost-benefit analysis of any future measures, as called for by the CRG, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Sky News it was "very hard to be precise" on the economic impacts of individual restrictions.
Tory MP for Rossendale and Darwen Jake Berry told BBC Breakfast that while there were "undoubted risks" to relaxing restrictions, it was "worthwhile trying to allow people to have a near-normal Christmas".
He warned of "mass public disobedience" if people were not allowed to see their families over the festive period, adding that it would then be "very difficult" for people to go back to following the rules.
Government ministers and advisers have been hinting about new tougher tiers over the past week.Government ministers and advisers have been hinting about new tougher tiers over the past week.
Monday will see the details of these set out in full - but not which tiers individual areas will be going in to.
The government wants to wait until nearer the end of lockdown to make that call.
Before lockdown there was some evidence that tiers two and three were having an impact, but not tier one.Before lockdown there was some evidence that tiers two and three were having an impact, but not tier one.
Crucially, both the top two tiers involved banning mixing inside homes, so one option being discussed behind the scenes is introducing a ban across all the tiers until winter is over.Crucially, both the top two tiers involved banning mixing inside homes, so one option being discussed behind the scenes is introducing a ban across all the tiers until winter is over.
The exception will, of course, be Christmas.The exception will, of course, be Christmas.
That is a move that divides opinion. But the government sees it as a necessity, believing significant numbers of people will ignore any attempt to ban gatherings over the festive period.That is a move that divides opinion. But the government sees it as a necessity, believing significant numbers of people will ignore any attempt to ban gatherings over the festive period.
It is also a recognition the public needs a break from the long hard slog of the pandemic.It is also a recognition the public needs a break from the long hard slog of the pandemic.
Infection rates will of course rise, but that will be offset to some extent by a wider boost to wellbeing.Infection rates will of course rise, but that will be offset to some extent by a wider boost to wellbeing.
Labour has so far supported the need for restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19, making a Commons defeat on the plan unlikely. Prof Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool, said he hoped it would be possible to relax rules over Christmas if the new tiered system worked but warned "there will be a price", including tighter restrictions in the future.
But the opposition party has been urging the government to lay out its plan for what will happen when the national restrictions end. However, Prof Semple, who is a member of Sage, told Sky News's Sophy Ridge there was "a lot to be optimistic about".
Labour's shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds, in a speech on Saturday, said the nation could not be allowed to return "to the shambles we had before this lockdown". He said he expected mass vaccination of the general population to happen towards next summer, which would give "broad immunity" and allow a "return back to normal".
MPs are expected to vote on the new tier system in the days before it comes into force.
Many Conservative MPs are opposed to stricter measures, with 70 signing a letter coordinated by the recently-formed Covid Recovery Group (CRG), saying they cannot support a tiered approach unless they see evidence measures "will save more lives than they cost".
Earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled by voting against the current lockdown and 17 more, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, abstained.
In a letter to the prime minister on Saturday, the CRG, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, warned against inflicting "huge health and economic costs".
The letter said: "We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions, and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season, only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihood."
Asked whether he would publish a cost-benefit analysis of any future measures, as called for by the CRG, the chancellor told Sky News it was "very hard to be precise" on the economic impacts of individual restrictions.
THE R NUMBER: What it means and why it mattersTHE R NUMBER: What it means and why it matters
LOOK-UP TOOL: How many cases in your area?LOOK-UP TOOL: How many cases in your area?
GLOBAL SPREAD: How many worldwide cases are there? SOCIAL DISTANCING: Can I give my friends a hug?
TRAVEL: What are the UK's rules? Labour has so far supported the need for restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19, making a Commons defeat on the plan unlikely.
Under England's previous three-tiered system, regions were classified as either tier one - "medium", tier two - "high" or tier three - "very high", and each one had different lockdown rules. But shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds told the BBC her party wanted clarity from the government over how tiers would be decided and the support available for businesses.
There are different rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
On Saturday, the UK recorded another 19,875 new coronavirus cases and 341 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.On Saturday, the UK recorded another 19,875 new coronavirus cases and 341 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
The number of deaths was down from 511 on Friday, and 462 on Saturday 14 November.The number of deaths was down from 511 on Friday, and 462 on Saturday 14 November.
PANORAMA 'LIVERPOOL: FIGHTING COVID': "Living under tier three rules just isn't possible"PANORAMA 'LIVERPOOL: FIGHTING COVID': "Living under tier three rules just isn't possible"
ANOTHER WEEKEND IN LOCKDOWN: We have you covered. Thrillingly tense, belly-laugh funny, mind-warpingly weird box sets to binge on BBC iPlayerANOTHER WEEKEND IN LOCKDOWN: We have you covered. Thrillingly tense, belly-laugh funny, mind-warpingly weird box sets to binge on BBC iPlayer