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Details of a new three-tier lockdown system for England have been announced in parliament by Boris Johnson in an effort to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 infections.
The traffic-light-style plan – or “local Covid alert levels” as the prime minister put it – is designed to simplify the current patchwork of localised restrictions that apply to about a quarter of the UK.
England will be split up into three tiers of medium, high and very high alert areas, with the most severe restrictions on social contact and businesses coming in the last category.
Here’s what we know so far about the three-tier system, with the caveat that there is likely to be a certain amount of autonomy devolved to local authorities, with the result that two areas in the same tier may have slightly different restrictions.
What changes for individuals and families?
Shops, schools and universities remain open in all categories, while residents of tier 1 areas can expect restrictions to mirror the current national measures in place including the “rule of six”, which permits no more than six people from multiple households to gather indoors or outdoors. Organised sport will only be allowed outdoors while wedding and civil partnership ceremonies could have up to 15 attendees.
The screws tighten in tier 2, which Johnson said would reflect already existing interventions in many areas. He said it “primarily aims to reduce household to household transmission” by preventing all mixing indoors between different households or “support bubbles”. Outdoor meetings can happen but would still be subject to the rule of six.
However the rules will be more relaxed than previously in some areas, where mixing of households in gardens was previously not allowed. Everything will be law now rather than simply advice. People are likely to be advised to only visit care homes in exceptional circumstances, but could go on holiday outside of their area.
In tier 3 areas, the government will set “a baseline” of prohibiting mixing in private dwellings, both indoors and in gardens. Residents in this level would also be advised against travel in and out of the area, unless it was needed, for example to take children to school.
What does it mean for businesses, and the hospitality sector in particular?
In tier 1 areas, sectors that are open would be permitted to continue to do so as long as they meet “Covid-19 secure” guidance. Face coverings and/or screens for all workers in indoor hospitality, and customers apart from when seated, would be mandatory while the 10pm curfew on pubs would remain.
People would be advised to continue working from home where possible.
In the tier 2 category, bars would be allowed to remain open but pubs and bars in tier 3 would be subject to a shutdown unless they are serving food. Guidelines are expected to lay out what constitutes that food, ruling out venues getting around a shutdown by serving token snacks alongside alcohol.
Gyms, betting shops and casinos would also close in tier 3 – as is set to happen in Liverpool – but government and local authorities will discuss measures.
What will an area’s category be based on and how long will the restrictions last for?
The tier system will reportedly be based on the local rate of infection, although the rate of increase might also be taken into account, along with the total number of cases. Johnson said that areas in tier 3 would be those where infection rates are rising rapidly and “where the NHS could soon be under unbearable pressure”.
Various reports suggest the infection rate for tier 1, which would have the fewest restrictions, could be less than 100 cases per 100,000 people of the population.
Reviews will be carried out after four weeks, the Times reported, “while local leaders will be offered the opportunity to go further with their own measures”.
What will the three tier map of England look like?
Johnson did not specifically name areas during his statement to MPs on Monday, but a full list was expected to be released by the end of the day.
Merseyside was expected at this stage to be the only place in England that will be subject to the “very high” measures – resulting in the closure of pubs and bars.
Greater Manchester will be in be in tier 2, meaning that pubs serving food will be allowed to remain open, as will South Yorkshire.
London was likely to be placed at the lowest level, it is understood, but with the expectations it could be moved to the middle tier very soon.
Most areas that are already subject to local restrictions will automatically move into the tier 2 “high alert” level. Nottinghamshire, along with East Cheshire, will also move into that category as a result of rising infection rates.
The Gov.uk website will feature a postcode checker so people can check the regulations in their area, with the information also available via the Covid-19 app.
Source: The Guardian
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