England’s tier system could be toughened after Christmas - here’s what the government has said
A second national lockdown is now in force in England, with tough new restrictions to remain in place until 2 December.
The four week lockdown has put a ban on household mixing indoors, ruled out unnecessary travel, and forced several types of business to close, including non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that a second lockdown was necessary, but has guaranteed that the strict new measures will expire on 2 December as planned, “without a shred of doubt.”
However, despite the promise that national restrictions are “time-limited”, come 2 December the government intends to return to a regional tiered lockdown system, and rules are expected to be much tougher this time around.
A tougher tier system
Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whity, said he was confident that England’s Covid R rate will drop below one by 2 December - a milestone that is needed for lifting restrictions - but changes to the previous tier system are expected.
The Prime Minister has previously explained that the tiers areas of England go into after 2 December will depend on how effectively members of the public have followed the new instructions.
During the first lockdown in March, restrictions were reviewed every three weeks, but measures continued to remain in place for several months.
Prof Whitty said the final decision on whether to lift the new lockdown lies with the government, which is already facing pressure from anti-lockdown Tory MPs. However, Boris Johnson has insisted that new lockdown restrictions will end in four weeks’ time “whatever happens,” and told ministers earlier this week there was “light ahead.”
Possible vaccine rollout
Despite England being plunged back into a second lockdown, there is some hope that a potential Covid vaccine could be rolled out as early as next month.
GPs are now being put on standby for a potential rollout, with doctors reportedly being told to prepare to start vaccinating people aged over 85 and frontline workers from early December.
Sources reportedly told GP magazine Pulse that there is a 50/50 chance of a vaccine being ready by next month, although the head of Oxford’s Covid vaccine trial has apparently said that it will be difficult to deploy a vaccine before 25 December.