November 25, 2020

Households to be banned from mixing after lockdown in bid to save Christmas –

Government sources said that even without any changes almost every part of the country currently has infection rates so high that they would fall into at least Tier 2, in which indoor household mixing is banned, when the lockdown is lifted. 

Restrictions are set to be announced in Parliament next week, with changes subject to a vote in the House of Commons. 

One Government source said: “It doesn’t seem possible that there would be any part of the country that would be in what’s now called Tier 1. It’s likely that everyone would fall into Tier 2 as minimum, and we are looking at bolstering the tiers.

“We are wanting to get into a position where people can meet inside for Christmas, and the hope is that the right measures in December – combined with the further rollout of mass testing – could get us there.”

Under the old system, Tier 1 imposed the “rule of six” on gatherings and forced pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm. 

Tier 2 had those rules but also banned all indoor social gatherings, while Tier 3 banned all social gatherings, indoors or out, other than in public spaces and told people not to travel out of the area.

Ministers are also examining proposals to introduce a new Tier 4, which could see areas with the highest infection levels subject to measures that are not far off full lockdown. 

On Tuesday, Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said: “We are reviewing the tiers so that when the national measures come to an end on December 2, we’re able to move the country, we hope, back into the tiered structure.”

Asked about the introduction of a stricter fourth tier, he said: “We haven’t come to a decision on that, but the Tier 3 that we had before was just considered a baseline.”

Mr Jenrick suggested that extra restrictions that were taken on a voluntary basis by councils in Tier 3 areas, such as forcing off-licences to close by 9pm, could in future be “embedded” into Government requirements

In Scotland, the “level 4” restrictions for areas with the highest infection rates mean the closure of all pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops, with households only allowed to meet in twos and outdoors. On Tuesday, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that 11 council areas will be under those measures until December 11.