Gyms and non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen when England’s second national coronavirus lockdown ends on December 2, PM Boris Johnson said on Monday, and sports fans will be allowed back into outdoor stadiums.
Addressing the House of Commons via video link, Johnson outlined his 56-page ‘Covid Winter Plan’, which includes a revised three-tier approach to tackle the virus.
Collective religious worship and weddings will also be allowed under the new plans, while people can meet up with others outside in groups of six.
England’s toughened three tiers will be reviewed every fortnight, Johnson said, and different regions across the UK are set to find out which level they fall under on Thursday.
The PM apologised to business-owners for the “unavoidable hardship” that the toughened rules will bring in the wake of lockdown. However he also warned that “we are not going to replace national measures with a free for all.”
Johnson also said that the “scientific cavalry is now in sight” as he applauded advances in rapid testing and vaccine development, and revealed that the government has ordered 100 million doses of the jab being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
“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,” he said.
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Under Tier 1 people should work from home wherever possible, Johnson said, while in Tier 2 areas, pubs and bars have to stay shut unless “substantial meals” are served with alcohol.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will close at 11pm, in Tier 2, with last orders set at 10pm.
Takeaways and delivery services may operate in Tier 3 areas, but hotels and all forms of hospitality will be forced to close.
Johnson said that the UK risks a “winter or new year surge” if precautions are not implemented.
I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year. We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are to continue deciding their own health strategies, but a four-nation approach to Christmas will be announced in the coming weeks.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer welcomed the news on vaccines and the four-nation approach announced by the prime minister. However he criticised the “risky” three-tier system, saying that the last such scheme – in place before England entered its second lockdown on November 5 – “didn’t work.”
He added that key questions remained over the government’s new Covid strategy, including whether the government would provide a new economic package to go alongside the measures.
In the last 24 hours, the UK has recorded 15,450 Covid-19 cases and 206 deaths, according to the latest government figures. The country was the first in Europe to register 50,000 deaths from the virus.
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