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The Prime Minister has published the government’s COVID Winter Plan, setting out a toughened Tier system which will follow the end of national restrictions on December 2.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be ‘a difficult winter ahead’ and that many more places would be in higher Tiers than before the current lockdown.

“The months ahead will be hard and cold, including January and February when the NHS is under greatest pressure which is why when we come out of lockdown next week we must not throw away the gains we have made.”

The COVID Winter Plan means that the ‘stay at home’ order will end from December 2 and shops, gyms, personal care, and the leisure sector will reopen. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and people will not be limited to seeing one other person in outdoor public spaces. Instead, the rule of six will again apply.

England will move back into a regional, tiered approach with tougher restrictions than before. For example, in Tier 1 people will be encouraged to minimise travel and work from home where possible.

In Tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal. In Tier 3, hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, and indoor entertainment venues, such as cinemas, casinos and bowling alleys, must also close. In Tier 3 areas, all pubs and restaurants will have to close.

The Tiers will be uniform, without negotiations on specific measures, and will be based on the following criteria:

  • Case rates in all age groups;
  • Case rates in the over 60s;
  • The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
  • The number of cases as a percentage of tests taken; and
  • Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

An announcement on which regions will fall into the various tiers is expected on Thursday. Tiering allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, and tiering regulations will expire in law at the end of March.

The Prime Minister said the government would be using three tools to tackle the virus – the toughened Tiers, more testing, including rapid community testing in areas of greater infection and the rollout of vaccines, although it may take many months for sufficient people to be inoculated against COVID-19.

He added that ministers were continuing to work with the Devolved Administrations on plans for a temporary relaxation of restrictions over Christmas.

Read the full COVID Winter Plan here.