Life After Lockdown Revealed as U.K. COVID Cases Finally Fall

A nationwide lockdown in England will come to an end next week and be replaced by a 'strengthened' tier system, which will see different rules enforced in regions depending on their rate of transmission.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that England's current lockdown will end in England on December 2 as planned before the strict regional restrictions are implemented in the lead up to Christmas. Johnson said the tier system will last until the end of March.

Johnson's "Covid Winter Plan" was announced to Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons ahead of a virtual press conference from Downing Street. The prime minister is leading the country's fight against COVID remotely after he was forced to self-isolate due to coming into contact with a positive case.

England was previously subject to a three-tier system as cases surged in October but the government's medical adviser on COVID, Dr. Susan Hopkins, earlier said the tiers needed to be revised after the previous low level of restrictions proved ineffective.

Under the new tiers, gyms, hairdressers, and non-essential shops will reopen, with outdoor sports allowed once more.

A nationwide 10 pm curfew for hospitality venues, such as pubs, restaurants, and bars, will be pushed back to 11 pm. But under tier three, hospitality venues will remain closed, Johnson said. The government is expected to confirm which regions will go into which tiers from Thursday.

Northern Ireland has announced its own lockdown to start at the end of the month and Scotland has already moved some areas to its toughest measures. Restrictions have been eased in Wales, although many rules remain in place.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak had previously hinted that the 10 pm curfew could be scrapped after a number of MPs complained that it was causing large crowds of people to spill out onto the streets or continue their socializing at home. Sunak said changes to the curfew rule were "definitely something [the government] are looking at".

Any specific details about a relaxing of COVID rules over the Christmas holiday are yet to be confirmed but it has been reported three separate households will be allowed to socialize together over five days beginning on December 23 and ending on December 27.

The Christmas rules are expected to apply to all U.K. nations. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove met with the leaders of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to endorse "a shared objective" of facilitating "limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We're trying to agree a common set of rules across the UK, not least because so many people travel across the UK at Christmas."

At an earlier Downing Street news conference, Dr. Hopkins said the prime minister was planning for a "Christmas as close to normal as possible". She warned, however, that "for every day we release [measures] we will need two days of tighter restrictions" and suggested the cost of socializing at Christmas would be stricter restrictions in January.

The latest R number is estimated at 1 to 1.1, while 142,727 people have tested positive for COVID in the past seven days across the U.K., down more than 34,000 on the previous seven days.

Across Europe, strict restrictions that have closed businesses and banned gatherings appear to be working - but COVID deaths are still worryingly high, according to the World Health Organization.

England COVID tier restrictions
How the different tiers impact socializing across England