Different areas will be plunged into a beefed-up tiered regime of regional restrictions, with a few days’ break expected over the festive period so families can meet
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Boris Johnson hosts a meeting of his top team today, aimed at rubber-stamping new rules for exiting England’s second national lockdown on December 2.
Different areas will be plunged into a beefed-up tiered regime of regional restrictions, with a few days’ break expected over the festive period so families can meet.
Most of the country is expected to be banned from mixing indoors with other households until March when ministers hope a vaccination programme will be nearing completion.
But the Government is desperate for relatives to be able to see each other for between three and five days over Christmas.
Ministers are going out of there way to say that it won’t be a normal Christmas – but measures are being put in place so people can see family.
Several households – potentially three – could be allowed to create a bubble temporarily between December 22 and 28, with the plans covering all four nations of the UK, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Restrictions on church services are also due to be lifted allowing Christmas Day services to be held, the paper said.
Boris Johnson is set to declare that the second national lockdown has been successful enough that it can end on December 2nd.
This is partly because of improving statistics and partly because backbench Tory MPs will put the PM on their naughty list if he tries to extend the national lockdown any further.
The Government has emphasised that it wants to see England exit its four-week lockdown on December 2.
Mr Johnson announced the original three-tier strategy in October, which splits different areas of England into medium, high and very high alert levels
The “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said.
And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.
The national lockdown in England is due to end on December 2 so either it will need to be extended or a new system put in place to replace it.
Ministers will then set out what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday and MPs are expected to be given the vote to approve the new system in the days before it comes into force.
The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.
But with no vaccines having been approved it is still not clear exactly when the rollout will be able to begin.
So we probably won’t get a firm answer on exactly how long these restrictions will last.
Under the restrictions expected to be announced on Monday non-essential shops will be permitted to reopen in most circumstances when lockdown ends on December 2.
Rishi Sunak has given the strongest suggestion yet that it is last orders for the 10pm pub curfew when Boris Johnson unveils the next stage of lockdown.
The Chancellor said that the Government will review the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants – which was in place before national restrictions were reintroduced.
He told the BBC’S Andrew Marr: “It’s definitely something that we’re looking at and I think, as I said, one of the things that we’ve been able to do as we’ve learned is get data, see what works and see where we can improve things.
“I think it’s probably fair to say when we introduced the curfew, that was something that was in common with many other countries and cities around the world.
“As we’ve learnt more, there’s opportunities for us to look and refine things, and that is one of the things on our list.”
The Prime Minister 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 with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.
What isn’t known is if it will end universally in all tiers or if the toughened tier system may see areas with the most infections forced to keep pubs and restaurants closed.
Brits who have two negative coronavirus tests a week could be given a ‘freedom pass’ which allows them to live as normal life as possible, according to reports.
Whitehall officials are said to be developing the scheme to try and get the country back to normal next year.
People found to be Covid-free would be given a document accessed on their phone which allows them to move around freely, under the proposed plan which has not yet been given the green light.
Regular tests would be needed to qualify for the ‘certificates’ which could see those with freedom passes no longer need to wear face coverings in public spaces.
But for the scheme to work, the Government would need to be able to carry out millions of tests a day.
Areas in the first tier – medium alert – were subject to the same national measures which were in force at the time across the country including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Under the second tier – high alert – household mixing was banned indoors while the rule of six continued to apply outdoors.
Tier 3 – very high alert – banned social mixing both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.
Local leaders were to help determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos, in very high alert level areas.
But the system faced criticised as not being strong enough to reduce the spread of the virus.
Dr Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England director advising the Government’s coronavirus response, said recently that Tier 1 restrictions had “very little effect”, Tier 2 varied across areas and Tier 3, especially “Tier 3 plus”, had reduced case numbers in the North West.
She said the Government may have to think about “strengthening” tiers “in order to get us through the winter months”.
Experts on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which advises the Government, believe infections will rise at the same rate as before if the same three-tier system is brought back in December.
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