BORIS Johnson revealed today that new tier rules will last until spring after the coronavirus lockdown ends next week..
The PM’s new rules will be significantly harsher than before, plunging millions into stricter rules, and will last until at least the end of March.
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As he laid out the Government’s Covid Winter Plan, he hailed the “sacrifices of millions of people across the United Kingdom” which had helped to control the virus and drive cases down.
The new strategy aims to get the R rate below one and keep it there with the fresh set of draconian rules, which are likely to be opposed by a string of disgruntled backbenchers.
Mr Johnson admitted that “many more regions will fall – at least temporarily – into higher tiers than before” meaning more Brits face being unable to see friends and family inside until around Easter.
He said: “The scientific advice, I am afraid, is that our tiers need to be made tougher”.
In a frank address to the public alongside Chris Whitty this evening, he admitted that “those months [ahead] will be hard” – not least because of the pressure on the NHS.
And he said: “That is why when we come out of lockdown next week we must not just throw away all the gains we have made.
“We will continue to bear down hard on the virus.”
And the PM confirmed there WILL be a break in the rules for the festive period – but families will “need to make a careful judgement” about visiting older relatives as the virus “doesn’t know” it’s Christmas.
He joked at tonight’s press conference: “It is the season to be jolly – but to also be jolly careful.”
Life would start looking closer to normal by Easter, he promised.
Most people who need the vaccine will be able to get the jab by then, he said.
Brits may start to be able to get a freedom pass to do more activities in areas with mass testing, he suggested too.
The rules will be reviewed every 14 days to check if they are working, and to see whether they can be relaxed.
The PM will lay out which place will go into which tier on Thursday.
He warned today: “Without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a Winter or New Year surge.
“We are not going to replace national measures with a free for all.”
Of the vaccine he added: “We are not out of the woods yet. We can hear the drumming hooves of the cavalry coming over the brow of the hill and they’re not here yet.”
The new rules, which will come in next week include:
The Speaker was forced to pause the Commons halfway through the PM’s speech after Boris accidentally put himself on mute during the question and answer session.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, had to step in to take over after technical issues with the PM – who is still in isolation in No10 after coming into contact with an MP who tested positive.
NO TIER 4
Most of the country is expected to return to the most stringent Tier 3 or high risk Tier 2 – but these will be beefed up.
Gyms, beauty salons and all shops will be able to reopen.
But in Tier 2 people will only be allowed to drink if they do so with a meal.
And punters will only be able to dine indoors with people they live with.
In Tier 3 pubs and restaurants will have to be shut completely, along with hotels, and indoor entertainment.
Mass testing will be rolled out in the top Covid alert levels in a bid to try and get the cases down again.
The hated 10pm curfew will finally be ditched by ministers and replaced with demands to take last orders – and a final closing time of 11pm, giving Brits a chance to finish their drinks before being forced onto the street.
In a huge boost for retailers, all shops will be allowed to open in the crucial run-up to Christmas — regardless of their local lockdown measures.
The tougher new tiers comes with a slice of good news for families, after the four nations signed off a plan to let people across the UK gather for Christmas.
It is understood up to three households will be able to come together for a turkey dinner indoors, subject to final agreement with the devolved nations.
There are also hopes that these “festive bubbles” will be able to go out for Christmas meals together — as long as they do not mingle with other households.
The ban on household mixing in Tiers 2 and 3 will likely be lifted for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day through to the delayed Boxing Day Bank Holiday on December 28.
And in Tier 1, the “Rule of Six” is set to be suspended to allow bigger groups to celebrate.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today it was “likely” household bubbles would be able to join – but said bringing four households together was not discussed.
She said there is an “obvious desire” to reunite over Christmas but stressed it needed to be done “safely” to minimise risks.
Ministers will look at five criteria to work out what tiers to put the nation back into.
- Analysis of cases across all age groups
- Analysis of cases among the over 60s
- Rate at which cases are rising/falling (R rate)
- The number of tests in local populations found to have Covid – prevalence per 100k
- The current and projected pressures on the NHS
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was “too early to say” which places will go into which tiers.
He told LBC today: “Based on the numbers that I’ve seen, which is a slow down in the virus spreading, it’s coming down in parts of London in a couple of boroughs.
“If we continue to make this progress, if Londoners continue to do the right thing, then what I suspect may will happen, what I hope would happen is when the lockdown’s lifted on December 2nd, London would probably be in what is called tier two.”
TEST THEM ALL
Mr Johnson told MPs the increase in new Covid cases in England is “flattening off” after the nationwide lockdown measures.
But he warned: “We are not out of the woods yet.”
Mr Hancock said this morning that Tier 3 combined with mass testing in Liverpool meant new coronavirus cases started to fall “quite remarkably”.
Mr Hancock also talked up the possibility of Brits’ lives starting to get back to normal by Easter after the Oxford AstraZenaca vaccine announced it had “up to 90 per cent” effectiveness.
He said: “It is subject to that regulatory approval and I really stress that because the medicines regulator, it’s called the MHRA, is independent, they’re rigorous, they’re one of the best regulators in the world.
“They will be very, very careful to ensure that they look at all the data to make sure that this is safe.
“Subject to that approval, we hope to be able to start vaccinating next month.”
Most jabs will start being rolled out in January to March, he said.
“And we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal.”