England’s national lockdown will last one day shorter than expected, with restrictions set to lift at 0.01am next Wednesday.
Announcing the nationwide measures last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the restrictions would last 28 days starting 4 November, as the government scrambled to curb a spike in infections across the country.
However, the restrictions will actually only last 27 days, a Downing Street source has told City A.M., with the nationwide lockdown set to lift just after midnight next Tuesday 1 December.
In a virtual address to the Commons yesterday, Johnson said England’s lockdown will be replaced with a “tougher” version of the three-tier system, which failed to ward off a second wave of infections over the summer.
The new system will allow shops, gyms and hairdressers to reopen across the country, while people will be allowed to leave their home “for any purpose to meet others in public spaces subject to the rule of six”.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen in Tier 1 and Tier 2, but must remain as takeaway-only services in Tier 3.
The 10pm curfew for pubs and bars will be replaced with a 10pm bell for last orders, with venues allowed to stay open until 11pm.
However, people will have to wait until Thursday to find out which tier their region is in, after ministers have been shown fresh data from the government’s top scientific advisers.
Johnson cautioned that “the incidence of the disease is still widespread in many areas, so we’re not going to replace national measures with a free for all status quo”.
“I’m sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before,” he told MPs.
“But by using these tougher tiers, and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below 1 and keep it at that, it should be possible for areas to move down the tiering scale to lower levels of restrictions,” he added.
Tier allocations will be based on five criteria, including case numbers across all age groups; cases in those aged over 60; the rate of rise or fall in infections; the percentage of those tested who have the virus; and current and projected pressures on the NHS locally.
Downing Street has confirmed a basic plan to allow some households to mix over a few days over Christmas, though details are not due until later this week.
However, a relaxation of restrictions over Christmas could spell a month-long lockdown in January, after Public Health England last week warned that every day of lifted measures will mean “five extra days” of restrictions later on.