Millions in England tier 3 areas await ruling on Christmas Covid rules | World news

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Millions of people living under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions in England are waiting nervously to hear whether they will be able to go to the pub or out for a meal before Christmas ahead of an announcement on the government’s tiering system on Thursday morning.

Though political leaders have been publicly making the case for their towns and cities to be moved out of tier 3 so that their hospitality businesses can reopen, few hold out real hope that they will be relaxed ahead of Christmas – particularly after London was moved into the highest tier earlier this week.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, is due to announce the outcome of its review of the tier system on Thursday morning, with reports suggesting the number of people living under the toughest restrictions could increase rather than decrease.

More than 23 million people in the north of England, Midlands, Bristol and Kent went straight from the second lockdown into tier 3, and were joined by a further 11 million from London and parts of the south-east on Tuesday. Infections have dropped significantly in most of the affected areas, though rates remain high in certain places and have plateaued elsewhere.

France reopened non-essential shops this month, allowing Christmas shopping to begin. But an uptick in new infections since then means that while travel is permitted from 15 December, a nationwide 8pm to 7am curfew will begin then that will be lifted for 24 December, but not Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Bars and restaurants will not reopen until January and private gatherings are limited to six adults.

Germany‘s “lockdown light”, with bars and restaurants closed since November, has not proved effective and the country has shut down further, closing all bar essential shops (such as supermarkets and pharmacies) as well as hair and beauty salons until at least 10 January. A maximum of five people from two households may meet, except for 24, 25 and 26 December when up to four close family members from other households can be invited.

Austria’s strict lockdown has ended and the country is carrying out a mass programme of 10 million tests over the next fortnight with the aim of allowing more families to reunite over the festive period. Christmas markets have been cancelled.

Italy‘s prime minister has said tougher restrictions will be needed over the holiday period,but they have not yet been announced. Inter-regional travel is already banned from 20 December to 6 January except for work, health or emergency reasons, and Italians may not leave their home towns on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. Midnight mass on 24 December has been brought forward so worshippers can get home before a nationwide 10pm-5am curfew. 

Spain has appealed for people to be responsible but will allow movement between regions “for family reasons” between 23 December and 6 January. Regional curfews, which range from 10pm to midnight, will be pushed back to 1.30am on 24 and 31 December, when the limit for gatherings will be raised from six to 10, a measure that will also apply on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

The Netherlands has imposed a tough Christmas lockdown, closing non-essential shops and businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres for five weeks until 19 January. Bars and restaurants have been closed since mid-October. Schools are switching to online learning and people advised to stay at home. Households may invite up to two guests a day except for 24-26 December, when the ceiling is raised to three, excluding children under 13. 

Belgium has said households may be in close contact with just one extra person over the Christmas period, although people living on their own will be allowed to meet two others. Fireworks are to be banned on New Year’s Eve to limit gatherings.

Poland will allow people to spend Christmas only with their immediate family, with no more than five guests to be invited to each household until at least 27 December and travel banned outside people’s home towns.

Britain is relaxing restrictions over the holiday with “Christmas bubbles” allowing up to three households to mix between 23 and 27 December. Scientists, government advisers and medical experts have called for an urgent rethink, suggesting the move could result in a disastrous third wave in the New Year.

Jon Henley Europe correspondent

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor for the West Midlands, was one of many regional leaders making the case for their area to move down a tier – and for businesses to be better compensated if there is no change.

He tweeted: “There is a clear case for parts of the West Mids to be leaving T3 when the government makes its decision. But if they are going to be cautious and keep the other parts in T3, then more cash has to be made available. A £3k monthly grant can’t sustain a closed hospitality business.”

In Conservative-controlled Derbyshire, the council leader Barry Lewis has also been making the case for the county to move into tier 2.

He said he had written to Christopher Pincher, the minister who is handling discussions with the east Midlands. If Derbyshire stays in tier 3, he will be demanding “more support for hospitality and tourism”, warning that important parts of Derbyshire’s heritage and high streets could “disappear for good”.

Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, said he fears the government will “overcompensate” in its tiers review after “a mistake” was made in allowing too much mixing over Christmas.


He said there is a “clear case” for parts of Greater Manchester to be moved from tier 3 to tier 2 restrictions, using the criteria that initially kept London out of tier 3.

Reiterating his appeal for “more support” for cities to help them to “come back strong in the new year”, he told BBC Breakfast: “My appeal to the government is: please look at the evidence, please give us the same fair consideration that was given to London in particular.”

Asked on BBC’s Today programme whether the government was likely to lower restrictions anywhere in England, Priti Patel, the home secretary, said: “The fact of the matter is, coronavirus is increasing. We are seeing a rise in infections. Our focus is to protect the public and support public health.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Millions in England tier 3 areas await ruling on Christmas Covid rules | World news

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