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Boris Johnson unveils post-December 2 lockdown ‘Tiers’

Boris Johnson tonight warned against ‘over-optimism’ as he said many areas face going into tougher Tiers after December 2 than they were in before the blanket lockdown.

Taking a Downing Street press conference from self-isolation, the PM tempered his positive message by insisting it is the season to be ‘jolly careful’ despite the latest apparent vaccine breakthrough. 

He braced the public in England for difficult months before the ‘cavalry’ of science comes to the rescue and finally ends the crisis.

And he said that although the national lockdown will finish next Wednesday, large sections of the country will still be under harsher measures than before it began on November 5.

Mr Johnson said ‘things will look and feel very different’ after Easter, with a vaccine and mass testing.

But he cautioned that the months ahead ‘will be hard, they will be cold, they include January and February when the NHS is under its greatest pressure’.

The specific Tiers for regions will be announced later this week, probably on Thursday.

Mr Johnson said: ‘Many more places will be in higher tiers than also was previously the case.’

In the Commons earlier, Mr Johnson announced that Christmas shopping is being saved as retail and gyms can reopen in all Tiers, while there is the potential for small family gatherings over the festive season. Spectator sports will also be able to make a limited comeback in the two lower levels.

But pubs and restaurants are set to pay the price with ‘devastating’ restrictions, sparking warnings that three quarters of hospitality firms could go bust. 

Although the hated 10pm curfew on bars is being eased, with last orders at that time and kicking out an hour later, the industry has branded it ‘reopening in name only’. Alcohol sales will only be allowed with meals in Tier Two, and it will be takeaway service only in the highest bracket. 

Mr Johnson declared that the new curbs will be ‘redundant’ and expire by law at the end of March – when there is increasing optimism that effective vaccines will be in circulation. ‘We have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight,’ he said.

He said the ‘whole concept’ of coronavirus lockdown should be unnecessary by the Spring, while warning: ‘We are not there yet.’ 

Mr Johnson said Britons ‘need’ to have ‘some kind of Christmas’, and UK-wide proposals will be outlined soon. But he added that families will have to make ‘careful judgments’ about the risks of meeting elderly relatives. ‘This virus is not going to make a Christmas truce.’ 

However, SAGE papers have exposed another rift between ministers and their experts, with calls for a fourth Tier to be introduced ignored by the premier.  

Meanwhile there is a special exemption in the new rules for families with children aged under one, who will now be allowed to form a bubble with one other household. Mr Johnson and fiancee Carrie, who have young son Wilfred, will be covered by the get-out. 

It comes after AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced their jab was up to 90 per cent effective in initial trials, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19. Tens of millions of doses could now be available in the UK by Easter.  

The breakdown of what areas are going into the different Tiers should be announced on Thursday, with MPs due to vote on the plans next week. The Tiers will be reviewed at least every fortnight. 

Tory rebel ringleader Mark Harper said in the Commons that critics of the lockdown will ‘hold their judgment’ to see what restrictions are imposed where.  

In one of the biggest days so far in the coronavirus saga:

  • The UK has recorded the lowest number of coronavirus infections for six weeks, down 30 per cent on last Monday, and a reduction in deaths as lockdown finally starts to drive down the epidemic; 
  • Ministers are proposing a major testing scheme to prevent the need for self-isolation when people have come into contact with infected individuals, in an attempt to win over rebels on the Conservative backbenches;
  • In a boost for the PM, another leading Tory rebel Steve Baker has said he is ‘reassured’ by the government’s new plan;
  • Rishi Sunak is readying billions of pounds more for infrastructure, the NHS and defence in what looks like a final splurge as the coronavirus crisis hammers the public finances; 
  • The respected IFS think-tank has suggested tax rises might not happen until 2025 after the next election;
  • Ms Sturgeon has revealed that there will not be any easing of restrictions over New Year and Hogmanay, despite the idea of looser rules at Christmas.   
In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before.

In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before.

In a Commons statement delivered from self-isolation in Downing Street, the Prime Minister confirmed that the second national squeeze will finish in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before

Keir Starmer said the change back to Tiers was 'risky'

Mr Johnson declared that the new curbs will be ‘redundant’ and expire by law at the end of March – when there is increasing optimism that effective vaccines will be in circulation. ‘We have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight,’ he said

In a Commons statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson is set to confirm the second national lockdown will end in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before

In a Commons statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson is set to confirm the second national lockdown will end in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before

Oxford jab ‘up to 90% effective’ and UK has 100m doses on order 

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is up to 90 per cent effective, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19, preliminary results have revealed today.

The trials found that the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. This drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.

The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4 per cent, Oxford University/AstraZeneca said.

The life-saving jab, costing between £2 and £4 each, is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has ordered 100million doses.

The Prime Minister tweeted today: ‘Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. Well done to our brilliant scientists at @UniofOxford & @AstraZeneca, and all who volunteered in the trials.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna in the US have showed 95 per cent protection – but both have to be stored between minus 75C and minus 20C and are up to £24 more expensive per jab.

Oxford University/AstraZeneca said today they have found no serious Covid-19 cases among any of 20,000 people who received the jab in the UK and Brazil and with regulatory approval will be able to start administering it by the end of 2020.

Scientists have also hailed the discovery that a half-dose for the first jab makes it more effective, saying it means more people can be inoculated because the vaccine will go further.

In his statement to MPs, Mr Johnson said ‘lessons had been learned’ from the first version of the Tiers.

After bitter wrangling with areas over what bracket they would go into, this time the restrictions will be ‘standard’ and not up for negotiation. 

The government is allocating £900million extra per head funding for local authorities up to the end of March. 

Mr Johnson praised advances in testing, treatment and vaccines and said the ‘scientific cavalry is in sight’, adding to MPs: ‘We know in our hearts that next year we will succeed.

‘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.’

But the premier went on: ‘The hard truth is we’re not there yet.

‘First we must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control and squandering our hard-won gains at exactly the time where the burden on the NHS is always greatest.

‘Our winter plan is designed to carry us safely to spring.’

Laying out the new system to take effect from midnight on the morning of December 2, Mr Johnson said: ‘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, collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.

‘But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge.

‘The incidents of the disease is, alas, still widespread in many areas.’

Mr Johnson said that when the regional Tiers are allocated – ‘hopefully’ on Thursday – more people were set to be in the higher levels.

‘I’m sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall at least temporarily into higher levels than before but by using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below one and keep it there, it should be possible for areas to move down the (tier) scale to lower levels of restrictions,’ he said.

Responding, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘risky’ to return to the Tiers now as they had not worked to control the virus previously. 

After England’s lockdown ends on December 2, non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen across the country in the hope that retailers can salvage part of their vital Christmas trade.

Gyms will be permitted to reopen in all tiers, and outdoor sport will be allowed to resume. 

But, under the plan signed off by the Cabinet last night, most of the country will be placed in the top two tiers, where the hospitality sector will remain subject to heavy restrictions.

Sources have cautioned that ‘most people’ will be placed in tiers two and three, where all indoor socialising with other households will be banned – potentially until the spring.

Hospitality firms in the top Tier will only be allowed to offer takeaways, while in Tier Two alcohol is only permitted with ‘substantial meals’.  

Despite the latest positive signs on vaccines there are warnings that thousands of businesses could be pushed to the wall by the ongoing restrictions, even though the hated 10pm pubs curfew is set to be loosened.

From December 2 last orders will be at 10pm, and kicking out time will be 11pm.

Ministers hope that will prevent the scenes of crowds from before as people emerged on to the streets in a rush.

Sports crowds can be back in stadiums from December 2 

Stadiums are due to be allowed to re-open from December 2 once the second coronavirus lockdown is eased.

Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that the Department for Culture Media and Sport has submitted proposals to the Cabinet Office for the return of fans to grounds in December for the first time since March.

But now 4,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of a stadium’s capacity for outdoor events, depending on which is lower – are set to be allowed in Tier 1 areas as well as 2,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity for indoor events also due to be allowed.

Areas in Tier 2 will also be allowed to welcome 2,000 spectators or 50 per cent of their stadium capacity outdoors, again depending on whichever figure is lower, and 1,000 fans or 50 per cent of capacity indoors.

Areas that will go straight into Tier 3 however will still have to adhere to a ban of attending sporting events for all fans.

In his statement detailing the long-awaited return of spectators to live sporting events, Boris Johnson said: ‘In Tiers 1 and 2 spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing.’

He however warned that at the end of lockdown, more places will be in higher tiers than before.

The government’s ‘Winter Plan’ sets out a series of metrics that will be used to decide what Tiers areas fall into. 

They are: Case detection rates in all age groups; Case detection rates in the over 60s; The rate at which cases are rising or falling; Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken); and pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

The plan document added: ‘The government will need to maintain some flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands. 

‘For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients. 

‘Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities. 

‘Given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators, as doing so would result in poorer quality decisions. 

‘The Government will, however, be transparent about the decisions that it takes and make available the evidence informing those decisions. 

‘The movement of areas up and down tiers will also be informed by broader economic and practical considerations, such as the anticipated movement of individuals between areas.’

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said the PM was proposing a reopening ‘in name only’ that felt ‘very unfair’. ‘We fear that 75 per cent of our businesses will be unviable with these restrictions lasting beyond December unless we get further help from the government,’ she told Sky News.

She added: ‘We are looking at millions of jobs across not just hospitality but our wider supply chain.’ 

The Food and Drink Federation said: ‘We still harbour deep concern at the potentially desperate future for hospitality. 

‘There is real danger that continued restrictions will result in two thirds of pubs, clubs and restaurants – customers to food manufacturers – closing before the vaccine arrives. We must see further financial support for this vital sector.’ 

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the new restrictions ‘unfairly target’ pubs.

How will government decide what Tiers areas are put into? 

The government’s ‘Winter Plan’ set out a series of metrics that will be used to decide what Tiers areas fall into. They are:

  • Case detection rates in all age groups;
  • Case detection rates in the over 60s;
  • The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
  • Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken); and
  • Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

However, the document added that there will be ‘some flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’. 

‘For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients,’ the document said. 

‘Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities.’ 

She said: ‘Our sector has been singled out by these new measures which unfairly target pubs. The additional restrictions will destroy our sector if they go ahead as proposed.

‘Whilst the review of curfew is overdue, the relaxation of the 10pm curfew is meaningless if most pubs are rendered unviable or forced to close under Tiers 2 and 3…

‘If these tighter tier restrictions are forced upon us, far more Government financial support will be needed to avoid the resulting carnage. In Tier 2 alone, the new restrictions will mean 90% of pubs will be unviable and will only be able to operate at a loss.

‘In Tier 3, no pub is viable if restricted to takeaway only. This will also mean our brewing businesses will be hugely damaged too.

In a round of interviews this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted it was a more ‘calibrated’ approach that would ‘save lives’, saying together with breakthrough news on the Oxford vaccine it meant there is now a ‘way through’ the misery. 

Mr Johnson is also close to agreeing a UK-wide Christmas deal with Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and other devolved leaders that will allow families a chance to see some friends and loved ones. That plan could be finalised as early as tomorrow.

But Sir Keir said there were ‘huge gaps’ in the plans.

‘Labour has backed the Prime Minister on all the big decisions the Government’s had to take to protect public health, including the two national lockdowns,’ he said.

‘We’ve done so because we want there to be a national consensus on difficult issues like this and because we’ll always put public health first.

‘Ideally, I’d like to be in a position to do so again. But there are huge gaps in this plan, huge uncertainties and huge risks.

‘We will await the detail, we want the Prime Minister to get this right.

‘He’s got a week to do so.’

Earlier, Mr Hancock said the number of cases was beginning to fall.

PM and Carrie could take advantage of new rules on bubbles for parents with small children 

Boris Johnson today announced the Government’s support bubble policy will be broadened when the England-wide lockdown ends, in a move which will benefit him personally. 

Existing rules state that single adult households can form a support bubble with another household. 

But from December 2 the circumstances in which people can form a bubble are being extended to include when a family has a child under the age of one. 

The policy change means young families will be able to link up with another household to help with childcare. 

This could benefit Mr Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds after the birth of their son Wilfred in April of this year. 

Boris Johnson and partner Carries Symonds, pictured with their son Wilfred, could benefit from the Government's updated support bubble policy

Boris Johnson and partner Carries Symonds, pictured with their son Wilfred, could benefit from the Government’s updated support bubble policy

The Government has faced criticism during the coronavirus pandemic over its support bubble policy because of its fairly narrow nature. 

Households in a support bubble can visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.

The decision to loosen the rules is likely to be welcomed by many families with young children who will benefit from help with childcare from grandparents or other family members. 

The support bubble policy is also being changed so it can be applied to other groups in need of help. 

From December 2, parents with a child under the age of five who needs continuous care because of a disability will be able to form a support bubble with another household. 

Households with a single adult carer, for example an elderly couple where one person has dementia and is looked after by the other, will also be permitted to form a support bubble. 

 

‘It is very clear that keeping the virus under control and getting the R below 1 saves lives because we can see that if the virus gets out of control the number of hospitalisations goes up, sadly the number of people dying goes up,’ he told Times Radio.

‘But the new tiers are calibrated to do that in a way that has as little impingement as is reasonably possible on our lives and on the economy.

‘Managing to open retail would have a big positive effect on the economy and we think we will still keep R below 1 and the number of cases coming down.

‘So, it is a more calibrated approach to the tiers so they can be more closely aligned to what is going on in your area.’

But Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was among those warning that many hospitality businesses would not survive a toughened system of tiered controls in England.

‘I am worried about what I am hearing this morning. It seems that a toughened Tier 3 could be devastating for the hospitality industry and will hit cities and the city economy very, very hard indeed,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘They seem to be going too far before Christmas to allow too much over Christmas and that will lead to a huge loss of hospitality businesses, which I would say is too big a price to pay.

‘To close all hospitality businesses in Tier 3 areas – that will be large parts of the North – that will be devastating for many of those businesses. They will not survive that.’

Ms Nicholls said the news was ‘far worse than anyone could have anticipated’. She said: ‘This a cruel decision and it just feels as if the whole sector is being thrown to the wolves.

‘If the tiers had stayed as they were until March, we were already expecting 94 per cent of businesses in Tier 3 and 74 per cent of businesses in Tier 2 to go to the wall. Now we have restrictions that are even worse.

‘We make 25 per cent of our profits in the run-up to Christmas and the Government is taking that away.

‘This will have a catastrophic effect on a large number of businesses and all those jobs that were furloughed will be lost. You are talking about the prospect of a million job losses and 30-40,000 premises closing their doors for good.’

MailOnline spoke to landlords crying out for looser restrictions to breathe life back into Britain’s hard-hit hospitality trade.

A particular blow is expected to be dealt to wet-led pubs which in the top two tiers will be forced to serve food if they are to open. 

Gary Murphy, landlord of the Ye Olde Mitre Inn, High Barnet, London, told MailOnline that 97 per cent of his profits come from drink sales – but he is going to try to adapt to the new measures ‘in desperation’ because the pub has been burning through funds to the extent he has not paid himself a wage since March.

He said: ‘I only have a tiny kitchen and most customers come here to drink, not eat. It changes my entire business which relies on drinks.’

Mr Murphy said the pub has been operating on a loss but he is still grappling with steep rent costs over £2,000 a week as well as lofty overheads.

‘I haven’t been taking any money personally since march. I’ve been living off my savings, and my wife also works. 

The government published a breakdown of the rules in the new system of Tiers, which will apply from December 2 until the end of March

The government published a breakdown of the rules in the new system of Tiers, which will apply from December 2 until the end of March

SAGE called for Tier Four 

SAGE scientists called for a fourth tier to the local lockdown system so rules could be even stricter than the previous policy allowed, official documents show.

In papers from a sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies published today, top experts said a ‘more stringent’ approach was needed to stop a third lockdown being ordered across England.

And they said Tier Two – where visiting the homes of friends and family is banned – should be considered the ‘minimum intervention’ to maintain ‘any degree of control’ over the virus.

But they said even that was ‘barely adequate’ to keep the virus under control when an epidemic was growing.

Ministers were also chastised for failing to consider the speed at which cases surged alongside the total number of infections when enforcing tiers, meaning there were not enough attempts to stop cases rising until they were already too high.

‘The pub’s been generating a loss and now we’re faced with the prospect of having to open with food, so out of sheer desperation I’m going to try to open because I’ve got to do something to get out of this awful situation.

Peter Tiley, landlord of The Salutation Inn, Gloucestershire, a former winner of National Pub of the Year, said he would not be able to open if forced to serve a meal.

He told MailOnline: ‘I’m gutted. I think it’s a real slap in the face for community wet-led pubs. Neither of my pubs serve food and they’re deliberately designed that way so people can come in, for a chat, without feeling like they’re imposing on a restaurant.’

Mr Tiley said that pubs have been ‘sacrificial lambs’ throughout the pandemic and is desperate to open to claw back some earnings in the vital winter trading window.

He said he’d spent poured thousands of pounds into Covid-proofing the pub as well as buying outdoor equipment so customers can sit outside.

‘I don’t know how much longer it can continue,’ he said. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday acknowledged that Christmas ‘is not going to be normal’, but said ministers wanted to give families some respite without risking a third wave of the virus.

Proposals believed to have been signed off by all four home nations would allow up to three households to gather for Christmas, provided they meet with no one else during this period. 

The respite will last for five days, beginning on Christmas Eve and running through to the Bank Holiday Monday on December 28.

Travel and overnight stays will be permitted across the UK to allow friends and families to unite for the Christmas break. But there will be no relaxation of the rules for New Year.

At her daily briefing in Edinburgh this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said it is ‘likely’ extended household bubbles will be allowed over Christmas.

Decisions to ease restrictions over the festive period are a ‘particularly difficult balance to strike’ and have split public opinion, she said.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘Reducing the prevalence of the virus is also what will allow us to consider a slight and careful – and I want to stress today those words ‘slight’ and ‘careful’ – easing of the rules for a few days over the festive period.

‘There is an obvious desire to see loved ones at Christmas, I think we all feel that very strongly.

‘I haven’t made any money since March’: Pub bosses warn they face disaster under new Tiers

Ministers have been warned that clamping harsh restrictions on pubs and restaurants next month would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for thousands of venues and trigger a jobs bloodbath.

MailOnline spoke to landlords crying out for looser restrictions to breathe life back into Britain’s hard-hit hospitality trade.

A particular blow is expected to be dealt to wet-led pubs which in the top two tiers will be forced to serve food if they are to open. 

Gary Murphy, landlord of the Ye Olde Mitre Inn, High Barnet, London, told MailOnline that 97 per cent of his profits come from drink sales – but he is going to try to adapt to the new measures ‘in desperation’ because the pub has been burning through funds to the extent he has not paid himself a wage since March.

He said: ‘I only have a tiny kitchen and most customers come here to drink, not eat. It changes my entire business which relies on drinks.’

Mr Murphy said the pub has been operating on a loss but he is still grappling with steep rent costs over £2,000 a week as well as lofty overheads.

‘I haven’t been taking any money personally since march. I’ve been living off my savings, and my wife also works. 

‘The pub’s been generating a loss and now we’re faced with the prospect of having to open with food, so out of sheer desperation I’m going to try to open because I’ve got to do something to get out of this awful situation. 

‘There’s also a lot of anxiety about the potential risks associated with that, particularly at a time when we’re starting to see, perhaps, the end of this pandemic loom on the horizon.

‘So we’re trying as hard as we can to reach a sensible balance, although it is possible – likely, in fact – that some households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period over Christmas.

‘We’re considering this because we recognise that isolation and loneliness can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period.’

Ms Sturgeon said there is a recognition that – given the nature of Christmas and pressure people may feel to spend time with family members who may be alone over the period – some may ‘try to push the boundaries’ of restrictions.

She said rather rather than allow that to be ‘uncontrolled’, the Scottish Government is trying to build in flexibility during the holidays.

Public Health England warned last week that five days of tougher restrictions would be needed for every day of relaxation over Christmas. But the Chancellor played down the warning, saying it was ‘difficult to be so precise’.

Police chiefs have warned they have no interest in trying to enforce the rules around family gatherings at Christmas. 

Mr Sunak said the new tiered system would be ‘tougher’ than the previous one. It is expected to last until the spring, when ministers hope the rollout of vaccines will allow life to start returning to normal. Ministers will announce on Thursday which areas of the country will go into which tiers.

Government scientists have warned that Tier One restrictions proved ineffective last month.

As a result, tens of millions of people will be placed in tiers two and three where much tougher restrictions apply. 

In Tier Three, pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway services, people are banned from overnight stays outside the home and travel outside the local area is frowned on.

Downing Street says that mass testing would be made available in all Tier Three areas to help them catch infections early and slow the spread of the virus.

Official documents have revealed that SAGE called for a fourth tier to the local lockdown system so rules could be even stricter than the previous policy allowed.

Matt Hancock

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said it was a reopening 'in name only' and it was 'very unfair'

In a round of interviews today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (left) insisted it was a more ‘calibrated’ approach that would ‘save lives’, saying there is now a ‘way through’ the misery. UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls (right) said it was a reopening ‘in name only’ and it was ‘very unfair’

The Tiers will be significantly tougher in key respects, leaving the hospitality industry facing 'catastrophic' restrictions while retail is allowed to continue to prop up the economy

The Tiers will be significantly tougher in key respects, leaving the hospitality industry facing ‘catastrophic’ restrictions while retail is allowed to continue to prop up the economy 

One last splurge from Rishi as experts say tax rises could wait till 2025 

Rishi Sunak is readying billions of pounds more for infrastructure, the NHS and defence in what looks like a final splurge as the coronavirus crisis hammers the public finances.

The Chancellor will use the spending review on Wednesday to push ahead with huge investment on schools, hospitals, colleges and prisons to meet Tory election pledges. 

He has signalled that tax rises will be put off until the ‘fog of uncertainty’ caused by the pandemic has lifted – with the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies saying this morning that they might not happen until 2025, after the next election. 

However, the foreign aid budget is likely to be trimmed by at least £4billion under plans to ‘temporarily’ jettison the vow to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid.

And Mr Sunak is set to press ahead with a pay freeze for five million public sector workers, despite strike threats from the TUC.   

In papers from a sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies published today, top experts said a ‘more stringent’ approach was needed to stop a third lockdown being ordered across England.

And they said Tier Two – where visiting the homes of friends and family is banned – should be considered the ‘minimum intervention’ to maintain ‘any degree of control’ over the virus.

But they said even that was ‘barely adequate’ to keep the virus under control when an epidemic was growing.

Ministers were also chastised for failing to consider the speed at which cases surged alongside the total number of infections when enforcing tiers, meaning there were not enough attempts to stop cases rising until they were already too high.

Meanwhile, bombshell results have shown the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is up to 90 per cent effective, can be stored safely in a standard fridge and costs as little as £2 per dose in another huge boost for the fight against Covid-19.

Initial trials found that the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. 

This drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.

The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70.4 per cent, Oxford University/AstraZeneca said.

The life-saving jab, costing between £2 and £4 each, is viewed as Britain’s best chance of mass-inoculation of the population by the end of spring because Boris Johnson has ordered 100million doses.

The Prime Minister tweeted today: ‘Incredibly exciting news the Oxford vaccine has proved so effective in trials. There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. Well done to our brilliant scientists at @UniofOxford & @AstraZeneca, and all who volunteered in the trials.

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna in the US have showed 95 per cent protection – but both have to be stored between minus 75C and minus 20C and are up to £24 more expensive per jab.

Oxford University/AstraZeneca said today they have found no serious Covid-19 cases among any of 20,000 people who received the jab in the UK and Brazil and with regulatory approval will be able to start administering it by the end of 2020.

Scientists have also hailed the discovery that a half-dose for the first jab makes it more effective, saying it means more people can be inoculated because the vaccine will go further.

Will the lockdown continue and what will reopen when it finally ends? As Boris Johnson plans a NEW system of tiered Covid-19 restrictions next month, we answer the most pressing questions 

Boris Johnson today set out plans for a strengthened three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions to replace the national lockdown in England.

The Prime Minister paved the way for a limited relaxation at Christmas as he detailed his winter strategy this afternoon in the House of Commons.

Appearing via videolink from his test and trace-ordered quarantine, he also announced major rapid testing programmes for all areas forced into the highest tier of restrictions. 

He said England will face tiered coronavirus restrictions until the end of March, despite the latest successful vaccine trials and rapid tests presenting a ‘route out of the pandemic’.

As the lockdown ends on December 2, more parts of England are expected to be placed into higher tiers than they were before the national restrictions were imposed.

Mr Johnson also said the new tiers would be tougher than their predecessors, after scientific advisers said the previous regime did not do enough to tackle the virus. 

Here are some of the questions we now know answers to, following Mr Johnson’s announcements today: 

Will the lockdown end next week?

Yes. Boris Johnson has confirmed today that the lockdown will end on December 2 – next Wednesday – and it is thought this will come into effect at 00.01am that day. 

What will replace the lockdown? 

The lockdown will be replaced by a system of regional restrictions in three tiers, which is expected to last until the end of March 2021.

Can you see friends outdoors again?

Yes. The Prime Minister said that from next Wednesday, anyone will be allowed to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the rule of six. 

What else will return?

Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, the Prime Minister said without giving further details.

He added that personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.

Will nail salons and hairdressers be allowed to open?

Yes, nail salons and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen, falling under the ‘personal care’ sector.

Can non-essential shops open in all three tiers?

Yes. Mr Johnson has confirmed all shops can reopen, whatever tier their area is placed into, in what is a major boost for retailers during the festive period.

Will I be able to attend sports events?

Yes, with restrictions. Mr Johnson said that spectator sports in tiers one and two 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’.

While Mr Johnson did not address specifics, it is understood the Government will allow the lower number of 4,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of a stadium’s capacity – for outdoor events in tier one areas. For indoor events in tier one, the maximum allowed will be the lower of 2,000 or 50 per cent of capacity.

In tier two areas, each of these numbers will be halved. So for outdoor events in Tier two, a maximum of 2,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lower – will be allowed. For indoor events the lower number of either 1,000 fans – or 50 per cent of normal capacity – will be allowed.

Areas that will go straight into tier three however will still have to adhere to a ban of attending sporting events for all fans.

Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade, gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart

Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade, gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart

What will this mean for working from home?

Mr Johnson said people in tier one should work from home wherever possible. This is different to the more relaxed arrangement under tier one before lockdown. 

Will pubs in tier two be allowed to stay open?

Yes, with new restrictions. Alcohol may now only be served in hospitality settings as part of a ‘substantial meal’. 

This is different to before, when all pubs were allowed to stay open in tier two, whether or not they served food.  

Will pubs in tier three be allowed to stay open?

No, apart from takeaways. Mr Johnson has ordered the closure of indoor entertainment, hotels and all forms of hospitality, except for deliveries and takeaways.

This is different to before, when tier three pubs could open but only when serving alcohol as part of a ‘substantial meal’.

Will the 10pm curfew rule be eased?

Yes, Mr Johnson has unveiled a plan so that while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.

 

When will you know which tier your area will be put in? 

This Thursday, when Ministers will announce which tier each area will enter based on scientific analysis of the local prevalence of Covid-19. 

Will rules within tiers vary between areas?

No, the Prime Minister said tiers will now be a uniform set of rules. There will be no negotiations on additional measures between each region.

Will my area still be in the same tier as before?

Not necessarily. More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the tiered-system next month, the Prime Minister said.

Can I see my family at Christmas?

Possibly. Mr Johnson has set out the basis of plans to allow a small number of households across the UK to mix over a limited number of days around Christmas.

He has not yet given the specifics and said families will need to make a ‘careful judgement’ about visiting elderly relatives over Christmas.

The PM told MPs: ‘This virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.

‘We will be publishing guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on how to manage the risks in each tier as well as over Christmas.’

Can I see my family at Christmas if they don’t live in England?

Mr Johnson said the Government is working on a time-limited Christmas dispensation with the devolved administrations.

He told the Commons: ‘I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.

‘We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it. But 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.

‘So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we’re working with the devolved administrations on a special time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom.’

How will rapid testing be rolled out – and who will get it first?

Mr Johnson said rapid testing will be used by the end of the year to allow every care home resident to have two visitors who can be tested twice a week.

He also told MPs: ‘Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today. And from next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.’

Mr Johnson said testing will enable students to ‘go home safely for Christmas’ and return back to university.

Gyms are expected to reopen across all three tiers

Gyms are expected to reopen across all three tiers 

Will the UK have enough vaccines?

The Prime Minister said the UK has ‘more than enough for everyone in the UK, the crown dependencies and the overseas territories’ when it comes to vaccines.

He told the Commons: ‘The most hopeful advance of all is how vaccines are now edging ever closer to liberating us from the virus, demonstrating emphatically that this is not a pandemic without end.

‘We can take great heart from today’s news, which has the makings of a wonderful British scientific achievement. The vaccine developed with astonishing speed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is now one of three capable of delivering a period of immunity.

‘We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the crown dependencies and the overseas territories.

‘And the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme ready next month, the like of which you have never witnessed.’

What is happening with the testing system?

Mr Johnson said a ‘very substantial fall in infections’ has occurred in Liverpool after more than 200,000 people took part in community testing.

He told MPs: ‘Together with NHS Test and Trace and our fantastic armed forces, 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 there are of course 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.’

Mr Johnson said daily testing will also be used as part of attempts to ‘end automatic isolation’ for close contacts of those testing positive for Covid-19. 

Will we find out more about the post-lockdown plans tonight?

Possibly. Boris Johnson will hold a TV press conference at 7pm, with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Director of Oxford Vaccine Group Andrew Pollard. 

Which areas will be plunged into Tier Three? Hull and much of the North West face toughest restrictions while London faces Tier Two and infections in Kent are spiking 

Infection rates remain stubbornly high in areas across the country that will face Tier Three local lockdown rules when England’s shutdown ends next week, with Hull, Kent and parts of the North West and Midlands in the firing line.   

The district of Swale was recording 631.7 cases per 100,000 people in the week up to November 18, according to analysis of the latest Public Health England figures. It marked a sharp rise from the 425.8 infections per 100,000 reported for the previous seven days.

The rising case rate means Swale will likely be plunged into a Tier Three lockdown when the national shutdown ends on December 2 unless the borough can drastically reduce its infection rate.  

Meanwhile official data shows Hull, in East Yorkshire, is also in danger of being put in the high-risk category next month because the city is recording 615.1 cases per 100,000.

Boris Johnson today unveiled his winter Covid-19 road map to curb the spread of the virus, which includes a revamped tiered lockdown system from next month. 

Under the new scheme, pubs and restaurants in areas in the highest category will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services, while cinemas, bowling alleys and hotels will close.  

Residents in Tier Two will have to follow rules that were previously in place in the highest Covid level – meaning pubs will only be able to serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’. 

Exactly which areas are being allocated into different tiers won’t be announced until Thursday, but the PHE weekly infection rate data is normally one of the measurements used by officials. 

London is set to go back into a Tier 2 lockdown when the second national lockdown ends on December 2 despite clear signs the already low infection rates across the capital have stalled and are dropping.

Businesses and MPs have demanded that the UK’s largest city should be in Tier 1 to help recover some of the billions the economy has lost since since March as the hospitality industry warned 75 per cent of pubs, restaurants and cafes could go bust without freedom to open fully.

But Boris Johnson is expected to ignore their pleas and keep London in Tier 2 – with stricter rules making it more like the current tier 3 – when he makes the announcement on which tier England’s regions will be in on Thursday. Mr Johnson unveiled the detailed lockdown ruled today via Zoom, where he is self-isolating.

The infection rates in the worst-hit London boroughs are still outside the top 100 in the league table of 317 authorities in England, Department of Health statistics show, with the seven-day average in London down to 197.2 per 100,000 residents yesterday from 198.9 on Saturday. The national average is currently 235. 

As the PM set out his tier-strategy to the spring via Zoom, it also emerged today:  

  • Oxford-AstraZeneca announce their vaccine is up to 90% effective and can be stored in a normal fridge; 
  • Boris Johnson is unveiling new lockdown tier rules with pubs and restaurants reopened ‘in name only’ – but gyms and Christmas shopping are back on. The tiers each region will be in from next month will be released on Thursday;
  • Ministers are proposing a major testing scheme to prevent the need for self-isolation when people have come into contact with infected individuals, in an attempt to win over rebels on the Conservative backbenches; 

The seven-day average infection rate in London is down to 197.2 per 100,000 residents yesterday from 198.9 on Saturday. The national average is currently 235.

The latest figures show the seven-day average infection rate in London is down to 197.2 per 100,000 residents yesterday from 198.9 on Saturday. The national average is currently 235.

Two weeks ago the average infection rates were largely lower than today - but the worst-hit London boroughs are still outside the top 100 in the league table of 317 authorities in England, Department of Health statistics show

Two weeks ago the average infection rates were largely lower than today – but the worst-hit London boroughs are still outside the top 100 in the league table of 317 authorities in England, Department of Health statistics show

Official testing data shows that coronavirus infection rates are falling across the North of England, where they were highest during the peak of the second wave, but they remain high in some areas of the West Midlands, Kent, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire (Darker colours indicate higher rates of positive tests per 100,000 people)

Official testing data shows that coronavirus infection rates are falling across the North of England, where they were highest during the peak of the second wave, but they remain high in some areas of the West Midlands, Kent, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire (Darker colours indicate higher rates of positive tests per 100,000 people)

Covent Garden in London is pictured on Friday. The capital is expected to go back into tier two despite falling infection rates in many boroughs

Covent Garden in London is pictured on Friday. The capital is expected to go back into tier two despite falling infection rates in many boroughs

Closed down and boarded up, the Garrick Arms pub in Charing Cross is among many pubs boarded up after the capital's hospitality industry was decimated

Closed down and boarded up, the Garrick Arms pub in Charing Cross is among many pubs boarded up after the capital’s hospitality industry was decimated 

Boris Johnson said he would reveal on Thursday which tiers will apply to each part of Britain, with no decision taken on whether London will go back into tier two until the 11th hour.

The move could depend on data on cases and the R number for transmission in the capital over the next few days.

But the Government face be significant criticism from politicians and business leaders if the capital was put into the higher tier three level.    

The return to the same ‘high’ level as before November 5 means non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and gyms will be allowed to reopen in the capital. But the rules are expected to be tighter even than before, with pubs in Tier 2 only allowed to open if serving ‘substantial meals’ with drinks.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, told the Evening Standard: ‘Reopening in a safe and sustainable way is vital to ensure that retailers and leisure operators get the best possible opportunity to make up some of the billions in lost trade this season. In order for this to be most effective, we hope the Government recognises the latest figures we have seen in the capital and will see fit to place London at the very least in Tier 2, if not Tier 1.’

Tests will offer freedom in SEVEN days: Boris Johnson is set to unveil plans for a £7billion coronavirus screening revolution in bid to cut self-isolation time by half 

Boris Johnson has confirmed plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative.

The move will allow thousands to get back to normal life even if they have come into contact with an infected person.

Tens of millions of fast-turnaround tests will also be made available to areas put in the highest level of the new tiered system of Covid restrictions.

Boris Johnson will today unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative

Boris Johnson will today unveil plans for a £7billion mass testing revolution – cutting the time for those who have to self-isolate to one week if their results are negative

The scheme will deploy new ‘lateral flow tests’ which have been trialled in Liverpool and can produce results within 30 minutes.

Ministers believe they could revolutionise the test and trace system, which has struggled to persuade people to self-isolate for the full 14 days.

Under a new system, those who come into contact with an infected person will be able to take a Covid test every day for a week.

If they test negative they will be able to go about their lives as normal. After seven days of negative tests they will be released from the system. Trials of the scheme will begin this week in Liverpool, where the Army has been helping to conduct the first mass testing of an entire city.

If successful, the project will be rolled out for NHS staff next month, before being made available to everyone from January.

Fast-turnaround tests will also be used to enable care home visits this winter. Downing Street last night confirmed that ministers hope to be able to allow residents to receive regular visits from two loved ones.

Named visitors will be tested twice a week. Negative tests will allow people to visit their loved ones and drop social distancing requirements. 

A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘Crucially, visitors will be able to have physical contact, such as a hug or holding hands with their loved ones.’

Trials have already begun in 20 care homes ahead of a national rollout planned for next month.

Care workers looking after people in their homes will also be offered weekly tests from today.

The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan to be announced by the PM today.

It is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year.

Ministers believe mass testing could play a critical role in enabling society to open up again in the coming months.

Plans are also being drawn up for the development of so-called ‘freedom passes’, which could allow people to attend events like live theatre and sport matches.

But these are not likely to be available until the New Year.

In the short term, the tests will be deployed mainly to help bring the pandemic under control.

Mass testing will be made available to all areas placed in the ‘very high risk’ category of the updated three-tier system the PM will roll out today.

The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year

The mass testing initiative is part of a new Covid Winter Plan is expected to cost £7 billion, taking the total bill for NHS Test and Trace to £22 billion this year

Sources said trials in Liverpool had shown the tests had proved effective in detecting cases in people with no symptoms, helping to break the chain of transmission and bring down case numbers more quickly.

Weekly tests will also be made available to people in high risk occupations, including prisons and food processing plants.

Teams of people delivering the new vaccines in the coming months will also be eligible for regular testing.

Twice-weekly testing has already begun in the NHS to help identify asymptomatic cases and prevent outbreaks in hospitals.

Care home staff will have testing doubled from weekly to twice weekly from next month. Care home residents will be offered tests weekly rather than the current once a month.

Universities will also be offered testing capacity to test students wanting to travel home to their families at Christmas

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk