Shops, gyms, pubs reopen and fans back into football as PM says lockdown ends on December 2
- Credit: PA
National lockdown restrictions will end on December 2 with shops, gyms, pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen and limited numbers of spectators allowed back in grounds to watch football and other sports.
In a statement to the House of Commons outlining the Government’s ‘Covid Winter Plan’, Boris Johnson said the national lockdown will be replaced with regional tiers.
He said by “maintaining the pressure” on the virus, people would be allowed to see more of friends and family over Christmas, adding: “In a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.”
But the PM says we don’t want to “throw caution to the wind, allowing the virus to flare up”, adding that families will need to make a “careful judgement” about visiting elderly relatives over Christmas.”
The end of lockdown means that from next Wednesday people will be able to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces subject to the rule of six.
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Collective worship, wedding and outdoor sports will be allowed to resume and shops, personal care and gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen. Pubs will be allowed to call last orders at 10pm and close at 11pm rather thanb the previous 10pm curfew.
In what will be a huge boost to sports the PM said outdoor sports can resume and some supporters will be allowed back into matches. “In Tiers 1 and 2 spectator sports will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls,” he said.
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Culture secretary Oliver Dowden later outlined in a tweet that 4,000 spectators or 50pc capacity limits - whichever is lowest - would be in place in Tier 1, dropping to 2,000 or 50pc for indoor venues, while in Tier 2 it will be 2,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors, or 50pc capacity.
Appearing via video link from coronavirus self-isolation in Downing Street, Mr Johnson told MPs the post-lockdown three-tiered approach would be beefed up. In Tier 1 people should work from home wherever possible, in Tier 2 alcohol may only be sold in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal, while in Tier 3 indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will have to close, with pubs and restaurants only allowed to deliver takeaways.
Local authorities will be told later this week which tier they are placed in based on the latest health data.
Cllr Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said he hoped the city would return to the lowest possible tier given the impact any additional restrictions would have on businesses and families.
“We are working very hard to stay in the lowest tier possible and we are conscious of the importance of encouraging people to follow the guidance in the lockdown period and that will hopefully facilitate that,” he said.
“Public health is the primary issue that is why we have been working with Public Health England, the county council and other district councils to make sure that we stand the best chance to be in the lowest possible tier by bringing down the levels of infection.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government’s return to the three-tiered system is “risky” and that decisions on which areas will belong to each tier must be taken “very quickly”.
Responding to Boris Johnson’s statement, he said: “The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, the question today is how do we get there and protect lives and livelihoods along the way?”
Regions will be told later this week which tier they are placed in based on health data.
The announcement comes off the back of positive trials of coronavirus vaccines, with the latest developed by University of Oxford-AstraZeneca showing it highly effective at stopping people developing Covid-19 symptoms.
Interim data suggests 70pc protection, but the researchers say the figure may be as high as 90pc by tweaking the dose.
The PM said: “By the spring these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020 and make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant.”
He said rapid testing is being deployed in the NHS and in care homes.
“As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will dispense it as quickly as possible,” he said. “But given that this can’t be done immediately, we will simultaneously use rapid turnaround testing, the lateral flow testing that gives results within 30 minutes to identify those without symptoms so they can isolate and avoid transmission.
“We’re beginning to deploy these tests in our NHS and in care homes in England so people will once again be able to hug and hold hands with loved ones instead of waving at them through a window.”
The PM added: “This will still be a hard winter. Christmas cannot be normal and there’s a long road to spring. But we have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight.”