What will happen after lockdown ends in England?
The Government has said it hopes to end England’s current coronavirus lockdown in December and return to a system of tiered controls.
But how could the restrictions change and will they allow families to enjoy Christmas together?
Here are the answers to some key questions over the future of the country’s Covid-19 measures:
Will England’s lockdown definitely end in December?
The Government has emphasised that it wants to see England exit its four-week lockdown on December 2.
This is its legal endpoint, with any extension requiring 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.
When will we know what happens after lockdown?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday it is too early to know the impact of the second lockdown on coronavirus cases but he hopes measures can be eased on December 2, to be replaced with “a tiered system similar to what we had before”.
On Tuesday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the true impact of national measures was not yet known due to a time lag of two or three weeks on case numbers, but that he expected there to be a “significant easing” next month.
He said the Government hopes to be in a position to take a judgment on future measures by the end of November – i.e. next week.
Did the old tier system have an impact?
It appears to be a mixed picture.
Dr Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England director advising the Government’s coronavirus response, said Tier 1 restrictions had “very little effect”, Tier 2 varied across areas and Tier 3, especially “Tier 3 plus”, 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.
So the new tier system will be different?
We don’t know the details yet, but the hints from Government suggest there will be changes.
Mr Hancock said the new system would be “similar” to what came before, while Mr Jenrick said the Government would like to see “greater consistency” within the new tiers.
Mr Jenrick said the Government would review which measures had been “most impactful” and whether to “embed” the additional measures available to local areas previously placed under Tier 3.
Does that mean creating a Tier 4?
In October, before the lockdown announcement, media reports suggested the Government was considering tougher regional measures – such as the introduction of a Tier 4.
Under the old Tier 3, social mixing was banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars had to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.
The rule of six applied in some outdoor settings such as parks and people were advised against travel in and out of areas.
But local authorities also had the discretion to introduce additional measures such as preventing the sale of alcohol in the hospitality sector, closing down all venues while allowing for takeaway and delivery, or shutting leisure facilities.
Asked if there could be a tougher tier than Tier 3 in any new system, Mr Jenrick said: “We haven’t come to a decision on that” but noted Tier 3 was a “baseline” on top of which local authorities could “go further”.
Will the new system be similar to Scotland?
The Scottish Government is operating a five-level system of restrictions for the country, rising from a baseline of Level 0 up to the most restrictive Level 4.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce on Tuesday whether to move parts of the west of Scotland into the highest level.
She has suggested a “limited period” of the strictest measures could allow an easing around Christmas.
Level 4 means a ban on in-home socialising. Two households up to a total of six people can meet in a public indoor place, with the same rule applying outdoors.
Non-essential shops will be closed, along with bars, restaurants, hairdressers and visitor attractions.
Will families in England be together over Christmas?
It remains to be seen.
Mr Jenrick said, while emphasising decisions on future restrictions were still to be made, that the “hard yards” of the November lockdown had been designed to “enable most people in England to have a much more normal December so that we can go to the shops, we can use hospitality and, as far as possible, we can be together as families at Christmas”.
Meanwhile, the Government is piloting new visitation procedures in 20 care homes in the hope of rolling them out more widely, and university students will be permitted to return home in a “travel window” after lockdown ends next month.