England is poised to enter a new three-tier coronavirus lockdown system after national measures lift on 2 December.
The original three-tier system was introduced in mid-October but failed to stop COVID-19 cases and deaths from rising, and the government later admitted it was not tough enough to prevent the “R” reproduction rate from staying below 1.0.
The new, stricter tiered system is a bid to open up the economy ahead of Christmas while keeping infection rates down following the second national lockdown.
Areas in England will be placed under Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 measures depending on their local rate of transmission.
Here’s a look at what happens next.
On Wednesday, the national lockdown in England comes to an end and the new tier system is set to come into effect.
Under the revised measures, pubs and restaurants face the harshest measures.
In a change from the earlier tier system, those in the strictest Tier 3 will only be allowed to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 will be able to sell alcohol only with a substantial meal.
The 10pm curfew has been changed to 11pm, with last orders now at 10pm.
Indoor entertainment venues and hotels in Tier 3 will have to close.
Non-essential shops and gyms will be allowed to reopen across all three tiers, while the bans on outdoor grassroots sport and collective worship have also been lifted.
The “rule of six” – allowing social gatherings of up to six people – will apply outdoors across all tiers.
Watch: Boris Johnson opens debate on tiered system in House of Commons
People in Tier 1 should work from home “wherever possible”.
In Tier 1, spectator sports will be able to resume with a maximum crowd size of either 50% stadium occupancy or 4,000 – whichever number is smaller.
In Tier 2 areas, the stadium rules will be 50% of overall capacity or 2,000 – whichever number is smaller. Indoors, there will be a limit of 1,000 in both Tiers 1 and 2. Spectator sports will not be allowed to resume in Tier 3.
Read more on the tiered restrictions:
Downing Street said the first review of the system will take place after two weeks, on 16 December.
This means some areas could move up or down a tier depending on the spread of the virus.
Number 10 said: “This allows for the possibility of areas that continue to make progress in slowing the spread of the disease to be moved down a tier in advance of Christmas.”
Hancock suggested in the House of Commons last week that decisions will be taken weekly after that.
Hancock said “we have a weekly cycle of meetings”, with England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty chairing meetings on Tuesdays and Hancock himself chairing meetings on Wednesdays in readiness “for an announcement on Thursday for any change to the tiers”.
We can therefore expect the weekly announcements to be made on 24 December, 31 December, 7 January and so on.
People will be allowed to form an exclusive Christmas bubble of people from no more than three households over this period.
The rule applies across the whole of the UK, after all four nations agreed on the measure.
Christmas bubbles can only meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces.
Boris Johnson has said the new coronavirus tiers have "a sunset" clause – or expiry date – of 3 February.
Parliament will have another vote on the tiered approach after the fourth fortnightly review on 27 January to determine whether the measures stay in place until the end of March.
It has been speculated that a further “circuit-breaker” lockdown might be needed in January or February if transmission rates rise during Christmas.
The prime minister has warned families against “a big blowout Christmas” that could risk another lockdown in the new year.
Watch: Shop workers ask customers to ‘Be kind this Christmas’ amid spike in abuse
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