Will the lockdown continue?
No. Boris Johnson will confirm today the lockdown will end on December 2. It will be replaced by a system of regional restrictions in three tiers.
December 2 is the lockdown’s legal endpoint, with any extension requiring a vote in Parliament.
What comes next will depend on a review of Covid-19 case data to assess if the lockdown has had an effect.
Will the tiers be the same as before?
No. The Government will revert to a three-tier system, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it will be ‘tougher’ than before the lockdown.
What were the tiers before?
England was split into three in October in the original tiered strategy, with areas in the first tier – medium alert – subject to the same national measures which were in force at the time across the country including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Under the second tier – high alert – household mixing was banned indoors while the Rule of Six continued to apply outdoors.
Tier 3 – very high alert – banned social mixing both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.
How will this new system be different?
More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the system, and restrictions in each of the areas are expected to be altered.
Under the old system, local leaders were to help determine whether venues such as gyms or casinos should be closed in very high alert level areas, and this may change in the new system.
Ministers will announce on Thursday which tier each area will enter.
What will happen with pubs?
It is understood pubs and restaurants will be allowed to stay open later than the 10pm curfew which previously existed.
The plans will mean that, 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.
There are reports suggesting that pubs will have to serve a ‘substantial meal’ with any drinks and people must stay within their household groups.
Will hairdressers and nail salons reopen?
Boris Johnson is expected to announced that hairdressers, nail salons and beauty services will be allowed to reopen after the lockdown is lifted, across all tiers.
Will shops and gyms reopen when the lockdown ends?
Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade. Gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart.
Betting shops are likely to close in the higher tiers and hospitality venues will probably remain takeaway-only in parts of the country, with restrictions on houses mixing elsewhere.
In Tier One pubs will be allowed to remain open until 11pm, in Tier Two the curfew of 10pm still stands, while in Tier Three you can’t go to the pub at all
Will I be able to see family and friends?
The Rule of Six will remain in place. Indoor socialising with other households will remain banned in the top two tiers and is likely to be restricted in the lowest tier as well.
How will they pick which tier my area goes into?
Ministers will announce on Thursday which tiers will apply to which parts of the country.
The decision will depend on a range of factors, including the number of Covid cases, local NHS capacity and the local R-number – the rate at which the virus is spreading. But Government sources have said that ‘most people’ will be in the top two tiers.
Will 10pm curfew stay?
No. Pubs and restaurants will stop serving alcohol at 10pm, but customers will have until 11pm to drink up and leave.
Will overnight stays outside of your home be allowed?
Overnight stays in other households are currently banned except for support bubbles. After lockdown ends, whether this will be allowed is likely to depend on which tier you are in, if the tier system remains in the same form as before.
Shops are expected to reopen to allow them some Christmas trade, gyms will reopen and outdoor sport is likely to restart
How long will the new tier system last?
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.
But with no vaccines having been approved it is still not clear exactly when the rollout will be able to begin.
Government sources said the new system was expected to remain until spring.
Is the vote on the Covid Winter Plan a done deal?
Not entirely – Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be wary of a rebellion from backbench Tory MPs who are opposed to new restrictions.
During a vote on the current four-week system earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled to oppose the measures and 17 more, including former prime minister Theresa May, abstained.
A ‘Covid recovery group’ led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker has been formed to resist new measures, with suggestions 50 Tories have enlisted.
What’s happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland will go into a strict two-week lockdown from Friday, with non-essential retail, the hospitality sector and close-contact services required to shut.
Tougher restrictions were imposed for parts of Scotland on November 20, requiring non-essential shops, the hospitality sector, gyms and beauty salons in 11 council areas to close for three weeks.
The Level 4 restrictions, which apply to parts of west and central Scotland, will be in place until December 11.
Meanwhile, the 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales ended on November 9.
The decision will depend on a range of factors, including the number of Covid cases, local NHS capacity and the local R-number – the rate at which the virus is spreading
Are restrictions going to be lifted over Christmas?
The Cabinet Office on Sunday said that leaders across the UK had endorsed an objective of ‘some limited additional household bubbling’ will be permitted over the Christmas period for a small number of days.
It comes as Boris Johnson is about to set out the basis of plans for the festive period on Monday, as well as detailing a new tougher three-tier system for England when its national lockdown ends on December 2.
But Mr Johnson will be unable to say how many households will be allowed to mix over Christmas and for how many days restrictions will be relaxed for until a later date, it is understood.
So will people be allowed to see their families at Christmas?
The answer seems to be yes, but the details remain to be finalised.
But 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.
What has been agreed?
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove held discussions on Saturday with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford, and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill on shared arrangements for the festive period.
The ministers ‘endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days’, the department said.
Gyms are expected to reopen across all three tiers
Do we know how many households will be allowed to mix?
The simple answer is no, but there has been a lot of speculation on what the limit will be and for how long the relaxation will last.
The BBC has reported that one option being discussed was for three households to be allowed to meet up over a ‘number of days, maybe five days’.
The Daily Mail however has said up to four families could be allowed to form a coronavirus ‘bubble’, which can meet indoors from Christmas Eve through to December 28.
Full details of Christmas relaxation plans are not expected until after the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have consulted their own cabinets.
When will a decision be made?
The Cabinet Office said that work was continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel.
The Cabinet Office said talks are continuing to finalise the agreement, including over travel arrangements, but that it is hoped the conclusion will come ‘this week’, while the Scottish Government said ‘no agreement has been reached’.
Does this mean Christmas has been saved?
It would seem so.
But even if families are allowed to meet over the festive period, experts are warning that it could lead to more stringent restrictions once the turkey has finally been finished.
Why will stricter restrictions be needed?
Statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said that any relaxation of restrictions will lead to a rise in infection rates.
Sir David, statistician and chairman of the Winton Centre for risk and evidence communication at the University of Cambridge, also warned that it takes longer for rates to fall than to rise.
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, you constrain and infection rates will come down as they are going down at the moment.’
‘This is not a symmetrical thing, you don’t have one day off and one day on.
‘It increases a lot faster than it gets better again – it is not a symmetric process.’
So is it going to be a long, dark January in lockdown then?
Not so fast.
Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University, has said that while some restrictions might be needed after the festive period, these might not need to be ‘draconian’.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Prof Semple, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), agreed with estimates that every day of relaxation would require five days of tighter restrictions.
But he added: ‘I think in the round it’s right, but it shouldn’t be seen that it is going to be draconian restrictions, it’s just going to prolong restrictions and higher-level restriction for some areas.’