PM sets out Covid Winter Plan

PM sets out Covid Winter Plan

Tightened regional coronavirus restrictions are being introduced when England’s lockdown ends on 2 December, and will remain in place until the spring, prime minister Boris Johnson has announced. You can view the full 64 page COVID-19 Winter Plan on the government’s website here.

Speaking by video link to the House of Commons today (23rd November 2020), the prime minister confirmed that gyms, shops, hairdressers and places of worship will be able to reopen in England.

The country will once more be divided into three tiers, with different rules on social mingling and hospitality venues depending on the local prevalence of the virus, but restrictions for each tier will be tighter than when they were first introduced in October.

And larger proportions of England are expected to be placed in the tougher tiers two and three, as the crucial reproduction rate – known as R – remains above one across the country, meaning the virus continues to grow.

Details of relaxed restrictions for up to five days over Christmas are expected later this week, as negotiations continue with devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over proposals to allow three or more households to gather for family celebrations.

Under the new regional system, due to come into effect at a minute past midnight on 2 December if approved by MPs in a vote at the start of next week, the “rule of six” limit on the maximum size of social contacts will be reintroduced indoors and outdoors in tier 1 areas. Indoor mixing of households and support bubbles will be banned in tier 2 and in tier 3, mingling of households will be allowed only in parks and other outdoor public spaces.

Tier one pubs and restaurants will be table-service only, while hospitality venues in tier 2 will be allowed to open only if serving substantial meals, while in tier three it will be takeaways and deliveries only.

A new curfew for pubs and restaurants will allow last orders at 10pm, with closing time at 11pm, in a bid to avoid the scenes of crowds in the streets seen under earlier arrangements requiring all drinkers and diners to be thrown out on the dot of 10pm.

On 2 December, across all of England, regardless of tier:

– The stay at home requirement will end, with travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.

– Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen.

– Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume.

– People will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces –  the rule of 6 will now apply outdoors as it did in the previous set of tiers.

Up to 4,000 spectators will be permitted in outdoor sports in tier one and 2,000 in tier two, up to a maximum of 50 per cent of venue capacity, but audiences will continue to be banned in tier 3.

Boris Johnson will announce which areas will fall into which tier later this week, probably on Thursday, he says.

Find a summary of the COVID-19 Winter Plan here.

Providing an initial response to the Prime Minister’s plan for Coronavirus restrictions after the second lockdown ends in England, British Chambers of Commerce Director General Adam Marshall said:

“It is helpful that the Prime Minister has heeded our call to give businesses at least a week’s notice of the rule changes that will affect firms across England from December 2nd.

“Businesses across England now need to see the detail – and will judge the latest set of Covid rules on whether they are easy to understand and based on clear, transparently-presented evidence.

“They need to know that the new rules will be accompanied by commensurate support, by a significant expansion of mass testing, particularly to workplaces across the country, and by a plan to get the economy fully open again.

“The reduction of time in quarantine for international passengers will help to re-establish connections to key markets and trade partners across the world, helping businesses that depend on the UK’s connectivity and preserving industries and livelihoods.

“Ministers can’t simply keep switching businesses on and off like a light switch without expecting severe consequences. Covid-secure businesses will be looking to the government for a plan that keeps them, and the economy, open throughout winter and beyond.”

“Businesses across England now need to see the detail - and will judge the latest set of Covid rules on whether they are easy to understand and based on clear, transparently-presented evidence."

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