Watch: Boris Johnson confirms return to three-tier COVID restrictions
Boris Johnson has revealed the details of England’s revised three-tier system of local coronavirus restrictions.
In a major House of Commons speech on Monday, the prime minister set out how the country will ease out of the national lockdown after 2 December.
He followed that up by leading a Downing Street press conference, again appearing via video-link due to his ongoing self-isolation after coming into contact with a COVID-positive MP.
Here are the four most important things Johnson announced today – and how they affect you...
1. Three-tier system will be different to last time
Johnson admitted his previous three-tier system ultimately fell short as it failed to reduce the reproduction “R” rate below 1 – with the PM forced to impose a second national lockdown on 5 November.
As a result, Johnson told the Commons that the revised tier system will be “tougher”.
Key differences will include pubs and restaurants in Tier 3 areas only being allowed to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 will only be able to sell alcohol with a substantial meal.
However, there are also ways in which the restrictions have eased. For example, the 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses has been changed to 11pm, with last orders now at 10pm and closing at 11pm. Meanwhile, spectator sports will be allowed to resume in Tiers 1 and 2 with capacity limits of 4,000 and 2,000 respectively.
2. Third national lockdown in England possible
The PM left the prospect of a January lockdown in England open if cases “flare up again” over Christmas.
Discussing plans for temporarily easing household mixing restrictions over the festive period, Johnson told MPs in the Commons: “What we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.”
Over the festive period, it is understood Johnson will permit three households to mix over a period of five days in the UK. A final announcement is expected on Tuesday.
The PM said a plan is being formulated with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to “minimise the risk”.
3. People in Tier 3 areas could meet up if they test negative
People living under the strictest Tier 3 rules could be allowed to meet up with each other if they test negative for COVID, Johnson said.
He told MPs in the Commons: “We will now launch a major community testing programme, offering all local authorities in Tier 3 areas in England a six-week surge of testing.
“The system is untried and of course there are many unknowns, but if it works, we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions, for example meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative.
“Those towns and regions which engage in community testing will have a much greater chance of easing the rules, the tiering they currently endure.”
4. No early school closures to ‘protect elderly relatives’
At the Downing Street press conference, Johnson was asked by a member of the public, Debbie from Buxton, if schools could close a week early “to allow a safe period of time before seeing elderly vulnerable relatives at Christmas”.
Johnson rejected this idea. “At the moment we’re not planning to do that,” he said.
“One of the things we really attach, as a country, as a society, a huge importance to is keeping pupils, keeping kids in school and keeping young people in education wherever we can.
“That’s been at the heart of what we’ve been trying to do over the last few months and it’s meant that we’ve had to put a lot of pressure, sadly, on other sectors in order to drive down transmission.”
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