Information on the new national restrictions, including what they mean for working from home and business closures, why they are being introduced and the financial support available can be viewed here. Please note, the new local tiered system will come into force at 00:01 on 2 December 2020.
Prime Minister's Statement on Covid-19 Winter Plan - 23rd November 2020
For the first time since this wretched virus took hold, we can see a route out of the pandemic.
The breakthroughs in treatment, in testing and vaccines mean that the scientific cavalry is now in sight and we know in our hearts that next year we will succeed.
By the Spring, these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020 and make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant.
When that moment comes, it will have been made possible by the sacrifices of millions of people across the United Kingdom.
I am acutely conscious that no other peacetime Prime Minister has asked so much of the British people and just as our country has risen to every previous trial, so it has responded this time, and I am deeply grateful.
But the hard truth, Mr Speaker, is that we are not there yet.
First we must get through Winter without the virus spreading out of control and squandering our hard-won gains, at exactly the time when the burden on the NHS is always greatest.
Our Winter Plan is designed to carry us safely to Spring.
In recent weeks, families and businesses in England have, once again, steadfastly observed nationwide restrictions and they have managed to slow the growth of new cases and ease the worst pressures on our NHS.
I can therefore confirm that national restrictions in England will end on 2nd December, and they will not be renewed.
From next Wednesday people will be able to leave their home for any purpose, and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the Rule of Six.
Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.
But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a Winter or New Year surge.
The incidence of the disease is, alas, still widespread in many areas, so we are not going to replace national measures with a free for all, the status quo ante Covid.
We are going to go back instead to a regional tiered approach, applying the toughest measures where Covid is most prevalent.
And while the previous local tiers did cut the R number, they were not quite enough to reduce it below 1, so the scientific advice, I am afraid, is that as we come out is that our tiers need to be made tougher.
- In particular, in tier 1 people should work from home wherever possible.
- In tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal.
- In tier 3, indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will have to close, along with all forms of hospitality, except for delivery and takeaways.
And I am very sorry obviously for the unavoidable hardship that this will cause to business owners who have already endured so much disruption this year.
Mr Speaker, unlike the previous arrangements, tiers will now be a uniform set of rules.
That’s to say we won’t have negotiations on additional measures with each region, it’s a uniform set of rules
We have learnt from experience that there are some things we can do differently
- So from the 10pm closing time for hospitality we’re going to change that to so that it is last orders at 10 with closing at 11.
- In tiers 1 and 2, spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside - with capacity limits and social distancing – providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.
- We will also strengthen the enforcement ability of Local Authorities, including specially trained officers and new powers to close down premises that pose a risk to public health.
Later this week we will announce which areas will fall into which tier, I hope on Thursday, based on analysis of cases in all age groups, especially the over 60s, also looking at the rate by which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have Covid, and the current and projected pressures on the NHS. I am sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall – at least temporarily – into higher levels than before, but by using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below 1 and keep it there, it should be possible for areas to move down the tiering scale to lower levels of restrictions.
By maintaining the pressure on the virus, we can also enable people to see more of their family and friends over Christmas.
Mr Speaker, I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.
We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it.
But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.
So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we are working with the Devolved Administrations on a special, time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom, and reflecting the ties of kinship across our islands.
But this virus is obviously not going to grant us a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas Mr Speaker and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.
We will be publishing guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on how to manage the risks in each tier, as well as over Christmas.
As we work to suppress the virus with these local tiers, two scientific breakthroughs will ultimately make these restrictions obsolete.
As soon as a vaccine is approved, we will dispense it as quickly as possible.
But given that this cannot be done immediately, we will simultaneously use rapid turnaround testing, the lateral flow testing that gives results within 30 minutes, to identify those without symptoms so they can isolate and avoid transmission.
We are beginning to deploy these tests in our NHS and in care homes in England, so people will once again be able to hug and hold hands with loved ones, instead of waving at them through a window.
By the end of the year, this will allow every care home resident to have two visitors, who can be tested twice a week.
Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today.
And from next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing, and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines.
We are also using testing as the House knows to help schools and universities stay open, and testing will enable students to know they can go home safely for Christmas and indeed back from home to university.
But there is another way of using these rapid tests, and that is to follow the example of Liverpool, where in the last two and a half weeks over 200,000 people have taken part in community testing, contributing to a very substantial fall in infections.
So together with NHS Test and Trace and our fantastic Armed Forces, we will now launch a major community testing programme, offering all local authorities in tier 3 areas in England a six week surge of testing.
The system is untried and there are of course many unknowns, but if it works, we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions, for example, meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative.
And those towns and regions which engage in community testing will have a much greater chance of easing the rules, the tiering, that they currently endure.
Mr Speaker, we will also use daily testing to ease another restriction that has impinged on many lives.
We will seek to end automatic isolation for close contacts of those found positive.
Beginning in Liverpool later this week, contacts who are tested every day for a week will only need to isolate if they themselves test positive.
If successful, this approach will be extended across the health system next month, and to the whole of England from January.
And, of course, we are working with the Devolved Administrations to ensure that Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland also benefit as they should and will from these advances in rapid testing.
But clearly the most hopeful advance of all is how vaccines are now edging ever closer to liberating us from the virus, demonstrating emphatically that this is not a pandemic without end.
We can take heart from today’s news, which has the makings of a wonderful British scientific achievement.
The vaccine developed with astonishing speed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is now one of three capable of delivering a period of immunity. We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed, but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories.
And the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme, ready next month, the like of which we have never witnessed.
Mr Speaker, 2020 has been in many ways a tragic year when so many have lost loved ones and faced financial ruin.
This will be still a hard Winter, Christmas cannot be normal, and there is a long road to Spring.
But we have turned a corner: and the escape route is in sight.
We must hold out against the virus until testing and vaccines come to our rescue and reduce the need for restrictions.
Everyone can help speed up the arrival of that moment by continuing to follow the rules, getting tested and self-isolating when instructed, remembering hands, face and space, and pulling together for one final push to the Spring, when we have every reason to hope and believe that the achievements of our scientists will finally lift the shadow of the virus.
Prime Minister's Statement on Coronavirus and Vaccine Announcement - 9th November 2020
"Across the country and around the world this evening, people are asking one question about our fight against Covid, does the news of progress towards a vaccine – that’s been announced today - mean we are at the beginning of the end of our troubles?
So, let me set out our assessment.
The Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine has been tested on over 40,000 volunteers and interim results suggest it is proving 90 per cent effective at protecting people against the virus.
But we haven’t yet seen the full safety data, and these findings also need to be peer-reviewed.
So we have cleared one significant hurdle but there are several more to go before we know the vaccine can be used.
What I can say is that if and when this vaccine is approved, we, in this country, will be ready to start using it.
Earlier this year the UK Government ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for about a third of the population, since you need two doses each.
That puts us towards the front of the international pack on a per capita basis – and I should add we’ve ordered over 300 million doses from 5 other vaccine candidates as well.
If the Pfizer vaccine passes all the rigorous safety checks and is proved to be effective then we will begin a UK-wide NHS led programme of vaccine distribution.
We will decide the order in which people are offered the vaccination taking account of recommendations from a group of scientific experts, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
They’re looking at a range of factors, including the different characteristics of different types of vaccines, to work out the most effective way to protect as many people as possible and save as many lives as we can.
And we will be setting out more detail about that in due course.
But – and you know I am going to say this - I must stress, these are very, very early days.
We have talked for a long time, or I have, about the distant bugle of the scientific cavalry coming over the brow of the hill
And tonight that toot of the bugle is louder.
But it is still some way off.
And we absolutely cannot rely on this as a solution.
The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at such a critical moment.
On Friday, SAGE reported that the R is above 1 in England – though this does not take into account the current national restrictions.
Alas, the death figures are tragically rising, running at an average of over 300 a day – sadly double where they were 24 days ago.
The number of Covid patients in hospital has risen from just over 10,000 two weeks ago to nearly 13,000 on 5 November, and we are heading towards the levels of the previous peak.
Irrespective of whether there is a vaccine on the way or not we must continue to do everything possible right now to bring the R down.
And that is why we hope and believe that mass testing will help.
Our first pilot began in Liverpool on Friday, in partnership with Liverpool City Council.
We’ve tested thousands of people there but there are still a lot more to do, so please if you are in Liverpool, get yourself along to a testing centre – there are 19 at the moment with more still to come.
The more people get tested the better we can protect that great city, and drive the disease down in Liverpool, so do it for your friends, for your relatives, for your community.
And I want to thank the fantastic support of the army, the people of Liverpool and Liverpool City Council.
And we are now going further by sending out hundreds of thousands of rapid lateral flow tests to local authorities right across England - and also of course to the Devolved Administrations.
We’re also working with universities to establish, as soon as possible, similar mass testing capacity for students up and down the country.
But while we are making progress this project is still in its infancy.
And neither mass testing nor progress on vaccines – both vital arrows in our epidemiological quiver, both key parts of our fight against Covid - are at the present time a substitute for the national restrictions, for social distancing, for hand hygiene and all the rest.
So it is all the more important to follow the rules.
I know it’s been a tough first weekend of these Autumn restrictions and I’m especially grateful to the Royal British Legion and all those who worked so hard to ensure that no virus would stop us yesterday from honouring the memory of those who gave their lives for our freedom.
But we must get through this to 2nd December, when these measures expire and we plan to move forward with a tiered approach.
Remember the basics, hands, face, space, and the follow the rules,
that is how we can together protect our NHS, save lives and get this virus back in its box.
And that is what we will do."
For up-to-date information regarding what you can and can't do during the pandemic, please click here.
For up-to-date information regarding support which is available, please click here.
Second National Lockdown Announcement - 31st October 2020
During a televised address to the nation on Saturday 31st October, the Prime Minister announced tougher national restrictions in England from Thursday 5th November 2020
With the NHS weeks from being overwhelmed, and a higher death toll than the first wave predicted without new restrictions, the Prime Minister, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Scientific Advisor, and Cabinet agreed there was no alternative to tougher national measures.
The Prime Minister will update Parliament on Monday, and MPs are set to vote on the measures on Wednesday. This follows a Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister earlier today.
During the Prime Minister's address, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP said:
"Good evening and apologies for disturbing your Saturday evening with more news of Covid and I can assure you I wouldn’t do it unless it was absolutely necessary.
When I told you two weeks ago that we were pursuing a local and a regional approach to tackling this virus, I believed then and I still believe passionately that it was the right thing to do.
Because we know the cost of these restrictions, the damage they do, the impact on jobs, and on livelihoods, and on people’s mental health.
No one wants to be imposing these kinds of measures anywhere.
We didn’t want to be shutting businesses, pubs and restaurants in one part of the country, where incidence was very low, when the vast bulk of infections were taking place elsewhere.
Our hope was that by strong local action, strong local leadership, we could get the rates of infection down where the disease was surging, and address the problem thereby across the whole country.
And I want to thank the millions of people who have been putting up with these restrictions in their areas for so long. I want to thank local leaders who have stepped up and local communities.
Because as you can see from some of those charts, the R has been kept lower than it would otherwise have been, and there are signs that your work has been paying off
And we will continue as far as we possibly can to adopt a pragmatic and local approach in the months ahead
But as we’ve also seen from those charts, we’ve got to be humble in the face of nature
And in this country alas as across much of Europe the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers
Whose models as you’ve just seen now suggest that unless we act we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day
A peak of mortality alas far bigger than the one we saw in April
Even in the South West, where incidence was so low, and still is so low, it is now clear that current projections mean they will run out of hospital capacity in a matter of weeks unless we act.
And let me explain why the overrunning of the NHS would be a medical and moral disaster beyond the raw loss of life
Because the huge exponential growth in the number of patients – by no means all of them elderly, by the way – would mean that doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat
Who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t
Who would live and who would die,
And doctors and nurses would be forced to choose between saving covid patients and non-covid patients
And the sheer weight of covid demand would mean depriving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of non-covid patients of the care they need
It is crucial to grasp this that the general threat to public health comes not from focusing too much on covid, but from not focusing enough, from failing to get it under control
And if we let the lines on those graphs grow in the way they could and in the way they’re projected to grow, then the risk is that for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us and for our families
And even if I could now double capacity overnight – and obviously I am proud that we have massively increased capacity, we do have the Nightingales, we’ve got 13,000 more nurses now than last year, we have many more doctors – but it still would not be enough, because the virus is doubling faster than we could conceivably add capacity
And so now is the time to take action because there is no alternative.
From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home.
You may only leave home for specific reasons, including:
For education; For work, say if you cannot work from home; For exercise and recreation outdoors, with your household or on your own with one person from another household; For medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm; To shop for food and essentials; And to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer.
I’m afraid non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed – though click and collect services can continue and essential shops will remain open, so there is no need to stock up.
Pubs, bars, restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services.
Workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home – for example in the construction or manufacturing sectors.
Single adult households can still form exclusive support bubbles with one other household, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
If you are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others.
I know how tough shielding was, and we will not ask people to shield again in the same way again. However we are asking those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with others, and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home.
I am under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure hardship this year. I am truly, truly sorry for that.
This is why we are also going to extend the furlough system through November. The furlough scheme was a success in the spring. It supported people and businesses in a critical time. We will not end it. We will extend it until December.
There will be some differences compared to March.
These measures above all will be time-limited, starting next Thursday 5 November. They will end on Wednesday 2 December, when we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.
Christmas is going to be different this year, very different, but it is my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now, we can allow families across the country to be together.
My priority, our priority, remains keeping people in education - so childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Our senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.
We cannot let this virus damage our children’s futures even more than it has already. I urge parents to continue taking their children to school and I am extremely grateful to teachers across the country for their dedication in enabling schools to remain open.
And it is vital that we will keep provision for non-Covid healthcare groups going.
So please - this is really important - unless your clinicians tell you otherwise, you should continue to use the NHS, get your scans, turn up for your appointments and pick up your treatments. If at all possible, we want you to continue to access these services, now and through the winter. Indeed it’s only by taking this action that we can protect the NHS for you.
On Monday I will set out our plans to parliament. On Wednesday, parliament will debate and vote on these measures which, if passed, will as I say come into force on Thursday.
We have updated the devolved administrations on the action we are taking in England and stand ready to work with them on plans for Christmas and beyond.
We should remember we are not alone in what we’re going through. Our friends in Belgium, France and Germany have had to take very similar action.
So as we come together now to fight this second wave, I want to say something about the way ahead
Because people will reasonably ask when will this all end
And as I have said before I am optimistic that this will feel very different and better by the spring
It is not just that we have ever better medicine and therapies, and the realistic hope of a vaccine in the first quarter of next year
We now have the immediate prospect of using many millions of cheap, reliable and above all rapid turnaround tests
Tests that you can use yourself to tell whether or not you are infectious and get the result within ten to 15 minutes
And we know from trial across the country in schools and hospitals that we can use these tests not just to locate infectious people but to drive down the disease
And so over the next few days and weeks, we plan a steady but massive expansion in the deployment of these quick turnaround tests
Applying them in an ever-growing number of situations
From helping women to have their partners with them in labour wards when they’re giving birth to testing whole towns and even whole cities
The army has been brought in to work on the logistics and the programme will begin in a matter of days
Working with local communities, local government, public health directors and organisations of all kinds to help people discover whether or not they are infectious, and then immediately to get them to self-isolate and to stop the spread
And I can tell you tonight that the scientists may be unanimously gloomy about the immediate options
But they are unanimously optimistic about the medium and the long term future
We will get through this – but we must act now to contain this autumn surge
We are not going back to the full-scale lockdown of March and April
It is less prohibitive and less restrictive
But from Thursday the basic message is the same
Stay at home. Protect the NHS. And save lives."
For up-to-date information regarding what you can and can't do during the pandemic, please click here.