Covid winter plan: What the new tier system of restrictions could look like

England is set to return to a three-tier system (Image: Getty Images)

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Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new tier system of coronavirus restrictions when the lockdown in England ends on December 2.

The measures will be similar to the ones in place before a second lockdown was introduced on November 5, but it is believed they will be stricter.

The Prime Minister announced the original three-tier strategy in October, which saw different areas of England being split into medium, high and very high alert levels.

Areas in the first tier – medium alert – were subject to the same national measures which were in force at the time across the country including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.

The hospitality sector has been badly hit by the pandemic
(Image: Getty Images)

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Under the second tier – high alert – household mixing was banned indoors while the rule of six continued to apply outdoors.

Tier 3 – very high alert – banned social mixing both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.

Local leaders were to help determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos, in very high alert level areas.

But the system faced criticism for not being strong enough to reduce the spread of the virus.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the toughest tier of restrictions was "a gateway to weeks and weeks, more likely months and months, of agony from which there's no likely exit".

Boris Johnson is expected to announce new measures next week
(Image: PA)

Local leaders also complained that once an area was placed in Tier 3 it was not clear what it had to do to get out of it.

The British Medical Association said that the previous system was "inadequate" and did not contain the spread of the virus.

The Government has repeatedly said it wants to see England exit its four-week lockdown on December 2.

This is its legal endpoint, meaning that any extension would require a vote in Parliament.

But what comes next will depend on a review of Covid-19 case data to assess if the lockdown has had an effect.

There has been some indication that the system helped in parts of the country.

Dr Susan Hopkins said the Government may have to 'strengthen' tiers
(Image: PA)

Dr Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England director advising the Government's coronavirus response, said recently that Tier 1 restrictions had "very little effect", Tier 2 varied across areas and Tier 3, especially "Tier 3 plus", had reduced case numbers in the North West.

She said the Government may have to think about "strengthening" tiers "in order to get us through the winter months".

Experts on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which advises the Government, believe infections will rise at the same rate as before if the same three-tier system is brought back in December.

The "Covid winter plan" is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said.

And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

The plan will also outline how people will be able to spend their Christmas, but ministers stressed some restrictions are expected to remain in place.

Restrictions across Wales have been relaxed following a two-week "firebreak" lockdown
(Image: Getty Images)

The Cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the new plan on Sunday before Mr Johnson announces it to Parliament the following day.

Ministers will then set out what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday and MPs are expected to be given the vote to approve the new system in the days before it comes into force.

The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.

It comes after reports saying that families could be allowed to meet for a few days over Christmas.

Several households – potentially three – could be allowed to create a bubble temporarily between December 22 and 28, with the plans covering all four nations of the UK, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Restrictions on church services are also due to be lifted allowing Christmas Day services to be held, the paper said.

But while plans have not yet been set out, ministers have made clear that the festive season will be different to normal.