Boris Johnson is today (23 November) set to outline the Government's plans on moving forward with a new, stricter ‘tier’ system following the conclusion of England's second national lockdown on 2 December.
The PM will address MPs this afternoon, detailing his ‘winter strategy’, and a proposal to deploy a major testing scheme in an attempt to win over rebels on the Conservative backbenchers.
Here is everything you need to know:
When is Boris Johnson speaking?
The Prime Minister will be appearing virtually in the Commons from his test and trace-ordered quarantine.
The exact time of his address is yet to be confirmed. The House of Commons opens at 2.30pm on Mondays, so expect the PM’s announcement some time after.
What will he announce?
He is expected to give a proposal to deploy a major testing scheme, and will also set out a trial of the repeat testing of close contacts of individuals who test positive for Covid-19, preventing them from having to isolate.
It is hoped the testing plans will be enough to win over dozens of Conservative MPs in the Covid recovery group (CRG), which is threatening to oppose any new restrictions unless they get detailed evidence to prove they will save more lives than they cost.
More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the three tier system that existed in England ahead of the country’s second national lockdown, with restrictions in each expected to be altered.
How will the new tier system work?
It is understood that Johnson will tell MPs that non-essential shops can open in all three tiers after the current restrictions expire on December 2.
Pubs and restaurants will face harsher new measures, with businesses in the new Tier 3 allowed only to offer takeaways, while those in Tier 2 must serve a “substantial meal” with any drinks, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Patrons will also have to stay within their household groups, but it is understood that pubs and restaurants will be allowed to stay open later than the 10pm curfew which previously existed.
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.
The paper added cinemas will be allowed to reopen in England for places in Tier 1 and 2.
It will be announced on Thursday (26 November) which tier each area will enter.
The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.
How will the announcement affect Christmas?
It is expected that several households could be allowed to create a Christmas bubble temporarily between 22 and 28 December (Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
It has been revealed that a formal announcement of what will happen over the Christmas period has been delayed until tomorrow (24 November).
Despite the delay, it is expected that several households could be allowed to create a bubble temporarily between 22 and 28 December, with the plans covering all four nations of the UK, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Restrictions on church services are also due to be lifted, with midnight mass and Christingle services permitted in all three tiers.
Despite the expected announcement of relaxed lockdown restrictions over the Christmas period, the public will be “advised to remain cautious” and told that “wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact”, a statement from the Cabinet Office said.
Will there be a January lockdown?
Experts are warning that a brief relaxation of measures could lead to more stringent restrictions in the New Year.
Professor Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that meeting people indoors would not come without risks.
She told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “Many of us would wish to see our older relatives at Christmas, and we know that mortality from Covid-19 is significantly higher for older people. At the moment we still have levels of infection in the community across the UK that are higher than we would wish.
“If we come together with people from different households at the time of year when the windows are closed, the people you care about, physical distancing is difficult, it is an opportunity for the virus to spread, so this is really really tough.”
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge, said that any relaxation of restrictions will lead to a rise in infection rates.
He told Times Radio: “If there’s got to be an exception it will be for a brief period over Christmas and that’s purely because it is Christmas. There will be a price to pay for it, obviously, you relax restrictions and infection rates go up.”
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, the Yorkshire Evening Post