Matt Hancock is set to announce which tiers each area of England will fall under, after Boris Johnson said a new strengthened system will replace th current lockdown.
Although the second lockdown, which has banned households from mixing and forced the hospitality sector to close since 5 November, will be over on 2 December, the government is still cautious about allowing people to return to more relaxed measures and is returning to a regional approach.
The restrictions will be tougher than those that were in place over all three previous tiers.
Read more: Will I be able to see my family at Christmas?
“Without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or new year surge,” said Mr Johnson.
“We’re going to go back instead to a regional tier approach, applying the toughest measures where Covid is most prevalent.”
The prime minister said that the previous tiers “weren’t quite enough”.
“Our tiers need to be made tougher,” he added before going on to apologise to those whose businesses will be adversely affected by the new restrictions.
“I’m very sorry for the unavoidable hardship this will cause,” he said.
Here’s everything we know so far about the new tier system for England.
What is the tier system?
In October, the prime minister introduced a three-tier system of local lockdown measures for England to help control the spread of coronavirus.
Different parts of the country were split into medium (tier 1), high (tier 2), and very high (tier 3), local coronavirus alert areas, with respective sets of rules depending on the categorisation of risk.
The measures came after the number of coronavirus cases in England began to rise, with the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 higher than when the UK went into lockdown in March.
What are the rules of each tier?
Here are the new rules in each tier under the new, tighter system.
In tier 1 (medium) areas, people have to stick to meeting in groups of six or fewer indoors or outdoors and pubs and restaurants will only be permitted to offer table service and will have to stop taking orders at 10pm and shut at 11pm. Overnight stays are permitted in groups of up to six people.
In tier 2 (high) areas, the rule of six will also apply, but people will be banned from mixing indoors. Pubs and restaurants will only be permitted to stay open if they serve “substantial” meals. Additionally, hospitality venues may only serve alcohol with substantial meals. As with tier 1, last orders are at 10pm and pubs and restaurants will close at 11pm. Overnight stays are permitted only with those in your support bubble.
In tier 3 (very high) areas, there will be a complete ban on household mixing indoors and most outdoor places apart from public spaces such as parks, public gardens and sports courts, where you can meet in groups of six or less. The hospitality sector may only remain open for takeaway, drive-through or delivery. Overnight stays are banned.
How will the rules be different from last time?
Unlike the previous tier system, gyms, swimming pools, beauty salons, places of worship, hairdressers, and non-essential shops will be able to remain open in all tiers. Wedding ceremonies can also resume in all tiers, subject to social distancing and a maximum of 15 guests. However, wedding receptions are not permitted in tier 3.
As for large events, such as live sport, live performances and business events, in tier 1, these are limited to 50 per cent capacity, or 4,000 outdoor spectators and 1,000 indoor spectators, whichever is lower. In tier 2, this is also reduced to 50 per cent capacity, or 2,000 spectators outdoors and 1,000 indoors, again, whichever is lower. Social distancing also applies across both tiers. Large events are banned in tier 3.
Additionally, the rules will be relaxed in pubs and restaurants in tiers where they are allowed to stay open for table service. They will be permitted to remain open until 11pm to give people an extra hour to finish their food and drinks after last orders at 10pm.
Support bubbles will also be extended. From 2 December, you can form a support bubble with another household, if at least one has:
• only one adult; (including a household where any children are under the age of 18)
• only one adult carer (ie living with any additional adult(s) in the household that have a disability and require continuous care)
• a child under 1 (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)
• a child under 5 with a disability that requires continuous care (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)
How do I find out which tier I’m in?
The government will announce which tiers apply to which areas of England in on Thursday at 11.30am.
More areas are expected to be placed into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control.
How will the rules differ for Christmas?
Mr Johnson has confirmed that the tier system will be temporarily paused over the festive period to allow families to spend Christmas together.
After a four-nation agreement was struck, it was announced that from 23 December to 27 December, three households will be able to form “Christmas bubbles” so they can spend time together in one another’s homes, places of worship, or outdoor spaces.
The bubbles will have to be fixed, which means you will not be able to mix with two households on Christmas Eve and two other households on Christmas Day.
Households you are in a Christmas bubble with also cannot be in others.