First of all, the good news is that freedom from our national lockdown is set for Wednesday December 2. The government has confirmed it’s sticking to the original timeline, and that means ending lockdown at the start of next month. Get those party poppers poised!
But what will it look like for England? Today (Monday November 23), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the next ‘tier’ system to face the country. He told the House of Commons that the country will revert back to a three-tier system again, and much like before Lockdown 2, areas of England will move back under restrictions according to localised infection rates. But don’t get too comfortable: rules are going to be tighter than last time.
The prime minister told MPs that the government was ‘not going to replace national measures with a free-for-all’, before outlining what would change from December 2, including a tightening of the regional tiered approach.
The government is yet to say how individual areas would be affected, and whether London would be moving up or down a tier. That part of the decision is expected to be announced later this Thursday (November 26). Many newspapers, including the Daily Mail and The Evening Standard, have said that London would fall back into its Tier 2 position, although so far, nothing has been confirmed.
Here’s what we do know...
From Wednesday (December 2), non-essential retail across the country will reopen (good news for your Christmas shopping!), along with hair salons, gyms and wider leisure venues. Spectator sports are also confirmed to be making a comeback, with up to 4,000 fans allowed at an outdoor event and 1,000 at indoor venues under Tier 1 – a ruling in line with theatre and live concert guidelines.
Hospitality venues will be allowed to reopen next week, and although there will still be a ‘last orders’ curfew in place at 10pm, customers will have until 11pm to finish up their food and drink. But under Tier 2, pubs won’t be allowed to serve alcohol without providing a ‘substantial meal’. And Tier 3 rules would see all restaurants and bars closing to the public (except for takeaway services).
As for the rule of six, under Tier 1, groups of up to six people can socialise indoors and outdoors. Under Tiers 2 and 3, that will be restricted to just outdoor socialising. These rules will change around Christmas time for a limited period; although the prime minister is yet to disclose exactly how arrangements will work around December 25, he did say there would be ‘special dispensation’ to allow families and loved ones to get together.
The tightening of measures follows concerns expressed by the deputy director of Public Health England, Dr Susan Hopkins; at a Number 10 press conference last week she suggested that the tier system needed to be tougher, with restrictions in Tier 1 seen as not strict enough to keep the spread of the virus at bay.
Before Lockdown 2, the capital was in Tier 2. If you need your memory jogging (this year is more than a bit of a blur, eh?), that meant that restrictions were in place to prevent interactions between households in indoor venues. Pubs and restaurants remained open – albeit with a 10pm curfew – and we were allowed to visit their outdoor spaces with those outside our household bubble, in groups of up to six. Shops, gyms, cinemas and hair and beauty salons were also open under Tier 2, but with social-distancing measures in place. And while you couldn’t have people round to your house, you could invite them into your garden. If London were to return to Tier 2, it would largely look the same – allowing a fair bit of festive socialising in the run-up to Christmas and providing the reopening of many of our cherished and struggling venues. We’ll update you as soon as London’s Tier status is confirmed for December.
In the meantime, here are all the current rules around Lockdown 2 in England.