Words by Oliver Mizzi
A new tier system is to be introduced in England from 2 December – the end of the month-long national lockdown. The system, which is a modification of the pre-lockdown tier system, is intended to ensure that the virus doesn’t pick up after the Christmas holidays, where more social activity is expected to happen. A parliamentary vote scheduled for Tuesday will decide if the new system is implemented.
Like the pre-lockdown tier system, it will involve three categories: medium, high and very high. Medium restrictions allow for indoor and outdoor mixing of up to 6 people, with hospitality venues opening till 11pm, with final orders being made at 10pm. Businesses and venues can open in a covid secure way. Venues showing performances or sports will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, or 4,000 people outdoors and 1,000 people indoors, which ever number is lower. This would mean that Brighton and Hove’s Amex stadium would only allow 4,000 people to attend matches.
High restrictions mean you won’t be able to socialise indoors with people outside of a social bubble, however the rule of six is still applicable in an outside setting. Hospitality venues can only stay open if they serve substantial meals, meaning alcohol can only be served with a meal. Venues showing performances or sports can still open at a 50% capacity, or 2,000 people outdoors and 1,000 people indoors, which ever is smaller.
Very high restrictions entail further restrictions, with the rule of 6 applying to select outside settings such as parks and beaches. Hospitality venues will be able to provide takeaway services, and shops, gyms and personal care services can open if Covid secure. Venues showing performances or spectator sports must close, including cinemas and theatres.
When England comes out of national lockdown on 2 December much of the country will be in the high or very high tiers, with the Isle of White, Isles of Scilly and Cornwall being placed into the medium tier. However, the government intends on reviewing the tiers every two weeks, starting from 16 December.
Although the tier system comes into force during the Christmas holiday period, the 23 – 27 December will see the allowance of a temporary bubble consisting of three households, with the aim of allowing families to gather for the Christmas period. This temporary bubble will be able to mix in private homes but will not be able to go to hospitality venues.
Whilst MPs will vote on the new system in parliament on Tuesday, there is speculation on how long the tiers will be enforced for. This speculation has been prompted by Boris Johnson, who wrote a letter to conservative MPs stating that the “regulations have a sunset of 3 February”, with parliament voting at the end of January on whether to extent the measures into March.
The letter sought to gain the support of Conservative MPs, who have criticized the government’s response of the pandemic, especially the economic implications of restrictions. Sky news has reported that 60 MPs have voiced unhappiness over the measures and are unlikely to support the adoption of new measures. This includes the chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady.
This may mean that the government will have to seek support from the opposition Labour party. However, labour has asserted that more clarity is needed to attain their support. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy stated that “The reason that I’m not committing to vote for these measures is because we’re not convinced at the moment that they are either sufficient or workable”.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the Conservative government has faced a rebellion from his party requiring support from the Labour party. 32 Conservative MPs voted against the November lockdown when parliament voted to pass it. The reports of 60 MPs voicing unhappiness is a substantially larger number than the previous rebellion and would require firm support from Labour for the passing of the vote.
Moreover, worries about a third wave surfaced after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that if the government do not “get the balance right”, a third wave in the new year may happen. Talking to Andrew Marr, Raab also stated that the government was “doing everything we can to avoid” a third national lockdown. It is hoped that due to tighter restrictions being in place immediately after the national lockdown, a third wave will be avoided.
Picture Credit: Number 10