Yesterday the Prime Minister addressed the nation to set out our Covid Winter Plan which will see England move back into a three-tiered, regional set of restrictions once our national lockdown ends on 2 December.
While we celebrate the fantastic progress that has been made in the development of vaccines to tackle Covid-19, we cannot become complacent – and the second peak that we have seen around the world shows us all that we are going to be dealing with this terrible virus for the long term. That is why, during this period of national restrictions, we have been working on a long-term, balanced approach which protects the NHS, keeps children in schools and gets the economy moving once again. At the heart of that long-term and balanced approach is a return of the regional tier system, and adherence to these tiers is how we avoid another national lockdown.
Whereas Labour want to keep the economy on ice and working people in suspended animation – we want to get things moving again. That’s because we understand that national lockdowns are not cost-free. Not only do they have an enormous cost in terms of jobs and small businesses, but they also have a profound impact on people’s mental health and loneliness.
We are being true to our word and ending national restrictions next week, which will end the stay at home order, allow collective worship to resume and enable people to see more than one other person in outdoor public spaces. On Thursday, we will announce which areas will be placed into which tier, and in reintroducing the localised approach, we are also making a number of changes to the previous system:
- The 10 pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10 pm and closing time at 11 pm. This allows customers to depart in a staggered way and provides greater flexibility.
- Across all tiers, non-essential retail will be able to remain open and operate in a Covid-Secure way.
- Gyms will be allowed to remain open.
- Spectator sport can resume with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.
Only by keeping the virus under control through December, even when national restrictions fall away, can we be able to see friends and family over Christmas in a relatively safe way. As mass testing and vaccines are rolled out through winter and into the spring, the need for even localised restrictions will gradually reduce – and life can once again return closer to normality.