POLITICS
23/11/2020 15:48 GMT | Updated 23/11/2020 17:25 GMT

Covid Rules: New Tier System Will Last Until End Of March In England

Sports stadiums will reopen in lower tiers, but there are tighter restrictions on pubs.

People in England are expected to be living under new local coronavirus restrictions until the end of March, Boris Johnson has announced.

A toughened three-tier system will be reintroduced at one minute past midnight on December 2, when England’s current lockdown ends.

Each area will then be placed into tiers 1, 2 or 3, with initial allocations to be announced on Thursday and reviewed every two weeks from December 2. 

Announcing the measures to the Commons, the prime minister said he was “sorry” to announce that many areas would be placed in tougher, higher tiers than they were in before the lockdown.

March is when the regulations governing the measures expire in law, and the tiered system is expected to last until then despite the recent breakthroughs on vaccines.

The tiers themselves will be also toughened up as government scientific advisers have assessed that the measures predating the lockdown did not do enough to bring the reproduction (R) rate of the virus down.

Announcing his Covid winter plan, Johnson praised advances in testing, treatment and vaccines and said the “scientific cavalry is in sight”.

But he told 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.

“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.”

Under the tougher new system in tier 2, pubs and restaurants can only serve alcohol alongside “substantial” meals, while all hospitality except delivery and takeaways will be ordered to close in tier 3.

The 10pm strict curfew for pubs and restaurants will be scrapped. Instead, last orders will be called at 10pm with an 11pm closing time.

The measures are not expected to cover Christmas, when rules around household mixing are likely to be relaxed for a few days.

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images
A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks past Christmas-themed window displays inside Burlington Arcade in central London on Monday

Elsewhere, in a significant relaxation, fans will be allowed back into football and other sports stadiums in both tiers 1 and 2.

In tier 1, stadiums will be allowed to open to 50% capacity, up to a maximum of 4,000 fans, whichever is lower.

In tier 2, they can open up to a maximum of 2,000 fans, or 50% capacity, again whichever is lower. 

Across England, stay-at-home instructions will end and shops, gyms and personal care will reopen.

Collective worship, outdoor sports and weddings can also resume and the rule of six will apply to meeting in outdoor public spaces.

The foreign travel ban will also end on December 2.

On Thursday, the government will announce which local authority areas are in which tiers.

These tier allocations will be reviewed every two weeks.

Labour leader Keir Starmer raised concerns about re-entering the tiered system without having a fully functioning Test and Trace system.

He said: “If we’re reintroducing a three-tier system without having fixed trace and isolate [sic], that is a major risk and we all need to acknowledge it.

“Because it begs the million dollar question, which is: how confident is the PM that the approach he’s proposing today will keep the R rate below 1?

“Because, if it doesn’t, the infections will go up. They will go back out of control and we could well be back in a national lockdown.”