Covid lockdown to end next week as tier system returns
A three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions will return in England when the current lockdown ends next week.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the news in a statement to parliament this afternoon, streamed live from 10 Downing Street where he is self-isolating.
The current country-wide lockdown will end as planned next week and the government will reintroduce the three-tier system to in a bid to keep coronavirus infection rates low.
Mr Johnson said he hopes to confirm which counties will be placed in each tier on Thursday.
Before the current lockdown began on Thursday, November 5, Suffolk was in Tier 1 – the least restrictive category - while Essex was in the middle tier.
Mr Johnson said: “From next Wednesday, people will be able to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the rule of six, collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.
“But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge.
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“The incidents of the disease is, alas, still widespread in many areas.”
A spokesman for the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement will come as welcome news to businesses in Suffolk who now have some time to prepare and reopen from next week, and operate in the build up to Christmas.
“Of course, this is dependent on which tier Suffolk falls into, given that Suffolk has been one of the lower risk counties we would expect either Tier 1 or 2, nonetheless, the tightening of the rules in these tiers may still adversely affect particular sectors such as hospitality, tourism and leisure and we would expect commensurate support to go with this.”
The chamber has called for mass rapid testing to protect the economy through winter.
Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, was pleased to hear the lockdown will be ending and expects Suffolk to be placed back into Tier 1 measures.
“This is very good news for businesses locally,” he said. “It was inevitable we would return to the tiered system but the government has learnt lessons from what has gone well and not so well previously and adjusted for that.
“Close social contact in pubs and restaurants is potentially a higher risk so tougher restrictions on hospitality reflect that.”
In Tier 1, people are still expected to work from home where possible and in Tier 2, alcohol can only be served in hospitality as part of a ‘substantial’ meal.
In Tier 3, all indoor entertainment, hotels and accommodation must close along with all forms of hospitality, except delivery and takeaway.
Initially, more counties are expected to be ranked in ‘tougher’ tiers before being able to work their way down as infection rates drop.
Mr Johnson added that the arrival of a 95% effective vaccine has brought an end to the pandemic in sight.