UK Government’s COVID-19 Winter Plan for England

Following a statement to the Commons by the Prime Minister today, the UK Government has released its COVID-19 Winter Plan for England. Under it, on 2 December across all of England, regardless of tier:

“1. The stay at home requirement will end, with domestic and international travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.

2. Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen.

3. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, subject to social distancing.

4. People will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces – the ‘rule of six’ will apply as it did in the previous set of tiers.”

England will move back into the regional, tiered approach. The Winter Plan says that, though the previous tiered system had an impact on viral transmission, SAGE has advised that stronger measures would be needed in some areas to prevent the epidemic from growing. The tiers will therefore be strengthened to keep the virus under control, as follows:

  • In tier 1, the Government will reinforce the importance of working from home wherever possible.
  • In tier 2, pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals (like a full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal), along with accompanying drinks.
  • In tier 3, all hospitality will close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through; hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, including people staying for work purposes or where they cannot return home); and indoor entertainment venues must also close.

The 10 pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10 pm and closing time at 11 pm. The Government is also expanding eligibility for ‘support bubbles’.

As to Christmas, the Westminster Government is working to agree on a common approach with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Winter Plan states that:

“it will be important to allow families and friends to meet in a careful and limited way, while recognising that this will not be a normal festive period and the risks of transmission remain very real. There is a shared objective to facilitate some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days. The public will be advised to remain cautious. Wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact. Work is continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel”.

It is hoped to conclude a common position with the devolved administrations later in the week.

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