Boris Johnson today published a 56-page Winter Plan mapping out coronavirus rules which will apply to daily life until the Spring when the Government hopes draconian curbs can start to be lifted for good.
The Prime Minister confirmed the England-wide lockdown will end as planned on December 2 and the nation will then move back into a tiered system of measures which will be tougher than those in place before November.
But Mr Johnson struck an optimistic tone this afternoon as he said ‘for the first time since this wretched virus took hold, we can see a route out of the pandemic’.
Below is a breakdown of the Prime Minister’s strategy.
He said ‘breakthroughs in treatment, in testing and vaccines mean that the scientific cavalry is now in sight’ and by April next year ‘these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020’.
Mr Johnson said technological advancements will ‘make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant’ as he urged the nation to stick to his Winter Plan and endure the ‘long road to Spring’.
Scroll down for a full Q and A on what you CAN and CAN’T do under the new rules
The Government’s Three Main Objectives
Mr Johnson’s Winter Plan is aimed at delivering on three key objectives.
The first is to bring the R rate of transmission of the disease below the critical number of one and to keep it there on a sustained basis.
An R number of three, for example, would mean that each infected person goes onto infect a further three people, leading to exponential growth in the virus.
Boris Johnson today set out his Winter Plan which will guide the UK’s coronavirus response during the coming months until a hope for escape from curbs in the Spring
Shoppers pass a Christmas window display in a store on Oxford Street, London, on November 23 following the news that retail stores will be allowed to reopen after December 2
Can I go to the pub? Will there be a curfew? Are gyms allowed to open? Your questions answered as Boris Johnson reveals his post-lockdown plan for England
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.
Can I go to church again – and are weddings back on?
Yes, church services will be allowed to resume – as well as weddings, with further details to be announced.
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.
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.
What is happening with the testing system?
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.
Keeping the number below one means that on average an infected person would infect less than one other person. This would in turn result in the number of new infections falling.
The second objective is to find and roll out new and more effective ways of managing coronavirus in order to allow life to ‘return closer to normal’.
This will include deploying vaccines, implementing new medical treatments and improving the NHS Test and Trace programme.
The third objective is to minimise damage to the economy and to society as well as to jobs and livelihoods.
Route Back to Normality: Vaccines
Arguably the most important piece of the puzzle for getting life back to normal is the development and roll out of a working coronavirus vaccine.
Mr Johnson’s Winter Plan states that vaccines which ‘provide durable and effective immunity to COVID-19 will substantially reduce the mortality rate of the virus and may limit its transmission’.
A working coronavirus jab should therefore allow ministers to ease restrictions because the spread of infection, particularly to people in society’s most vulnerable groups, should be greatly reduced.
The Government has struck deals with seven separate vaccine developers and has secured access to more than 350 million doses between now and the end of next year.
The roll out of the vaccines will be entirely dependent on them receiving the green light from regulators and the Government has stressed ‘the public will always come first’.
‘A COVID-19 vaccine will only be approved for use if it has met robust standards on safety, effectiveness and quality through clinical trials,’ the Winter Plan states.
However, ministers are confident that at least some of the vaccines will clear the regulatory hurdle in the coming months.
It will then become a question of not just deploying them but also establishing how long it takes for them to be effective and how long immunity could last.
The roll-out of the vaccination will be the biggest health project ever undertaken by a modern British government and the stakes will be high for it to go well.
Route Back to Normality: Treatments
The ability to treat patients with Covid-19 will be critical both before and during the roll out of vaccines because even with the new restrictions there are likely to still be thousands of infections.
Effective treatments will be ‘vital’ in managing the virus, especially for people who cannot be vaccinated, for example if they are immunocompromised.
The Winter Plan states: ‘Finding effective treatments will reduce risk to lives and serious illness for people who do contract the virus and support the return to normal life.’
Results are expected in the coming months for a variety of drugs and treatments which could help people fight the disease and recover.
Route Back to Normality: Testing
If vaccines are the most important piece in the puzzle for getting life back to normal then improved testing is a close second.
The Government’s approach to coronavirus testing has so far focused on symptomatic testing.
But ministers hope a massive expansion in testing capacity – crucially using rapid turnaround tests – will enable them to better locate asymptomatic cases of the disease and prevent people passing it on unknowingly.
The ability to identify and quarantine people who have coronavirus but are not displaying any symptoms on a mass scale is seen as a potential game changer in the fight against the disease and it could have a massive impact on infection rates.
The Winter Plan states: ‘The Government plans to introduce frequent testing as an alternative to the need for self-isolation for people who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
‘Instead, contacts will be offered regular tests as an alternative to isolation and only have to self-isolate if they test positive.’
Local areas which are placed into the top tier of restrictions will be offered the opportunity to take part in a ‘six week testing surge’ to tackle local outbreaks.
Meanwhile, an additional £7billion is being pumped into NHS Test and Trace, taking its overall funding in the current financial year to some £22billion.
Controlling the Virus: A Return to Tiers
Meeting family and friends
The Rule of Six will return, with variations on whether socialising can take place indoors or outdoors depending on the tier.
In Tier 1 – medium alert – people will be able to meet in groups of six indoors and outdoors, while in Tier 2 – high alert – socialising with five others will only be allowed outdoors.
In Tier 3, the highest alert level, groups of six will only be able to meet in outdoor public spaces, such as parks and sports courts – but not in private gardens.
Pubs, bars and restaurants
Hospitality will be closed except for takeaway in areas under Tier 3 restrictions, but the rules are slightly more relaxed for Tiers 1 and 2.
In Tier 2, hospitality must close unless it is operating as a restaurant, and alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.
In Tier 1, venues must be table service only. The 10pm curfew will be replaced with a last orders call at 10pm, and venues must close at 11pm, for Tier 1 and 2.
It is hoped the change to the curfew will prevent the rush to the exit seen under the old rules and result in a more staggered departure from venues by customers.
Shops, entertainment and hairdressers
In every tier, retail and personal care businesses – such as hairdressers and beauty salons – will be allowed to reopen.
Indoor entertainment venues – such as cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys and casinos – will be allowed to stay open in Tiers 1 and 2, but not Tier 3.
The return of non-essential shops will be welcomed by business groups because it comes at the start of the critical Christmas rush for many retailers.
Weddings, funerals and worship
Weddings and civil partnerships can resume but with only 15 guests, though wedding receptions are banned in Tier 3.
Thirty people will be allowed to attend funerals, but only 15 will be able to attend a wake.
Places of worship can reopen in all tiers for collective worship, but in Tiers 2 and 3 people must not interact with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
Gyms and exercise
Gyms and swimming pools will be able to reopen in all tiers.
In Tier 1, classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but must follow the rule of six indoors.
Indoor classes and organised adult sport cannot take place in Tier 2 or 3 if there is interaction with different households.
In Tier 3, classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but people are advised to avoid higher-risk contact activity.
In Tier 1, people will be told to walk or cycle wherever they can and to avoid travel into Tier 3 areas except for if such a journey is necessary for work or for education.
Tier 2 areas will see people asked to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible and also to avoid travel into Tier 3 areas, except for work or education.
Tier 3 will see people asked to avoid travelling out of the area other than if it is necessary for work or education. They will also be asked to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible.
One of the Government’s three main objectives during the coming months is to get the R rate of infection down below one and keep it there
Official estimates show the R rate of transmission is estimated to be significantly different in different parts of the country
Working from Home
During the worst months of the pandemic the Government urged people to work from home wherever they could before then encouraging a return to the office in the summer.
The guidance was changed again in September back to a plea to stay at home and the Winter Plan is sticking with that approach.
The blueprint states ‘home working can have a significant effect on reducing transmission if all those who can work from home do so’.
Ministers are now encouraging all employers to ‘enable a greater degree of home working’ with the Government adamant that ‘anyone who can work from home should do so’.
Elite sport and live performances
Large events – such as theatre and spectator sport – will be permitted in Tiers 1 and 2, but with reductions on capacity.
In Tier 3, they will still be banned but drive-in events will be permitted.
In Tier 1 there will be a restriction on spectator numbers of 50 per cent of capacity or 4,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors, whichever is lower.
In Tier 2 the spectator levels will be set at 50 per cent of capacity or 2,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors, whichever is lower.
The move back to a tiered approach does not change the basic rules which the Government has been reliant on throughout much of the pandemic.
That means ministers are still urging people to wear face masks in enclosed environments, to maintain social distancing and to self-isolate when infection is suspected or confirmed.
The Winter Plan states that the ‘normalisation of these behaviours has had an undoubted impact on reducing the spread of the virus’ and continued adherence to these behaviours will remain just as critical through the winter’.
The Government is sticking to its basic advice of telling people to maintain social distancing and to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces
The Government is currently working with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to agree a single set of rules for the festive period.
The plans are expected to include a slight easing of restrictions to allow families to meet up for a specific number of days.
The plans are yet to be finalised but a formal announcement is expected later this week.
Mr Johnson said Christmas would not be ‘normal’ this year but recognised that ‘time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none’ in a period of adversity.
Protecting the NHS and the Vulnerable
During the England-wide lockdown, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been told to take ‘extra precautions’ and to stay at home ‘as much as possible’.
The end of lockdown will see the end of guidance to those people not to go to work or school.
Instead, the Government will reintroduce advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable based on which tier area they live in.
On the issue of social care, the Government is planning to act to prevent care home staff unwittingly transmitting the virus by moving between different sites.
Ministers are bringing forward legislation by the end of the year which will require all care home providers to restrict ‘all but essential movement of staff between settings’.
Meanwhile, the NHS will be given an additional £205million of support for the winter period, including £80million to bring forward staff recruitment programmes.
The cash is in addition to the £1billion previously announced to help the NHS target a backlog of elective surgeries.
Ministers are hoping the England-wide lockdown will result in a fall in coronavirus hospital inpatients in the coming weeks
The above graph shows how the second wave of infections has hit the UK when compared to other European nations
Keeping Education and the Economy Afloat
The Government’s furlough scheme has already been extended to March next year as Chancellor Rishi Sunak tries to avoid a wave of redundancies over the winter months.
A self-employed income support scheme will remain in place until April while the Government’s three main coronavirus business loan schemes will stay open until the end of January next year.
The Government has already spent more than £200billion on propping up UK PLC and that bill is likely to surge in the coming months.
On education, it remains the Government’s priority to ensure schools, colleges and universities stay open.
The Winter Plan states: ‘The policy in England is that education settings will remain open in all tiers.’
Ministers have promised that all schools and colleges will have access to coronavirus tests so that staff and students can get checked if they are unable to access testing by another route.
Every university in England has been offered access to rapid asymptomatic testing.
It remains the Government’s plan for exams to go ahead in England next summer.