England’s second national lockdown will be lifted on 2 December when a revised three-tiered system of restrictions will allow shops, gyms and hairdressers to reopen across the country.
The prime minister’s “stay at home” instruction to the country will end a week on Wednesday, following a month of tougher national instructions.
Under his 56-page COVID Winter Plan, which Mr Johnson revealed to the House of Commons on Monday, the national shutdown will be replaced by a new “tougher” version of the tiered system of restrictions that preceded it.
The lifting of the national lockdown from 2 December will mean:
• Non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and leisure facilities can reopen across the whole of England
• Collective worship, weddings and all outdoor sports can resume, subject to social distancing, across the whole of England
• The “rule of six” will return – meaning people will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person outdoors – across the whole of England
• The previous 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants will be extended to 11pm, with last orders at 10pm.
The prime minister warned that the next few weeks will still prove to be a “hard winter” and “Christmas cannot be normal”, but he said the country had “turned a corner and the escape route is in sight”.
“We must hold out against the virus until testing and vaccines come to our rescue and reduce the need for restrictions,” he added.
In Tier 1 areas, people will be urged to work from home wherever possible.
In Tier 2 areas, pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals along with alcoholic drinks.
In Tier 3 areas all pubs, bars and restaurants must close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through. Hotels and indoor entertainment venues must also close in these areas.
The prime minister said he expected to announce on Thursday which areas of England will be in which tier – a decision that will be based on local infection rates and pressures on hospitals.
“I’m sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall at least temporarily into higher levels than before,” he added.
“But by using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below one and keep it there, it should be possible for areas to move down the tiering scale to lower levels of restrictions.”
The government will review tiering allocations for each part of the country every two weeks, with the new tiered system to last until the end of March.
Meanwhile, for the first time since the country’s first lockdown in March, fans will be allowed back into sports stadiums in areas with the lowest cases of coronavirus.
In Tier 1, 50% capacity or 4,000 spectators – whichever is lower – will be allowed in outdoor venues, with a maximum 1,000 indoors.
In Tier 2, 50% capacity or 2,000 spectators – whichever is lower, will be allowed in outdoor venues, with a maximum 1,000 indoors.
People in England will also now be able to travel both within the country and abroad for holidays once again from 2 December, although they will remain subject to quarantine rules and local tiered restrictions.
The prime minister told MPs that his winter plan “is designed to carry us safely to spring”, while he said the “scientific cavalry is in sight” as he praised advances in testing, treatment and vaccines.
“By the spring these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020 and make the whole concept of a COVID lockdown redundant,” Mr Johnson said.
The prime minister is also this week expected to set out how families across the UK might be able to gather at Christmas.
However, he told MPs: “I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.
“We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it.
“But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.”
The prime minister also warned people to “make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives” over the upcoming festive period.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded the return to a three-tiered system of restrictions as “risky” as he told the prime minister that the previous system “didn’t work”.
“Tier 1 areas drifted to Tier 2, almost all Tier 2 areas ended up in Tier 3 and those in Tier 3 couldn’t see a way out and we ended up in national lockdown,” he said.
“That was the sad reality of the tiered system before and nobody wants a repeat of that.”
Mr Johnson’s address to MPs was later interrupted by technical problems as his video-link from Downing Street, where he continues to self-isolate, failed.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, asked: “Have you pressed the button prime minister?”
He then suspended proceedings for three minutes, before Health Secretary Matt Hancock took questions on the prime minister’s behalf.
After a further suspension, Mr Johnson was then able to return to answer MPs’ questions remotely.