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Despite the impressive vaccine breakthrough, strict Covid restrictions will remain in place through April


Strong coronavirus curbs will hold up at least until Easter yesterday, despite another impressive vaccine breakthrough.

Oxford University confirmed that the cheap, easy-to-store, and easy-to-deliver pile has been shown to be "highly effective" in preventing disease.

It could get regulatory approval in just a fortnight and be administered over the next month. The UK has ordered 100 million cans, with nearly 20 million due by Christmas.

Boris Johnson praised the breakthrough, saying that any British at risk could be vaccinated by Easter, which would allow a gradual return to normal by spring. But he also warned against "over-optimism" and said it would be "tough months" before strict restrictions could be relaxed.

He put forward plans for a tougher tier system to replace the December 2nd lockdown, and said onerous rules must stay in place through at least March 31st.

Business leaders said the new system is "purgatory" for companies that have already been hit by two national shutdowns.

London is likely to be at level three, the highest level, after a surge in cases.

Whitehall sources suggested that very few, mostly rural, areas would belong to the first tier – the only tier at which it is possible to have contact with other households indoors.

Boris Johnson discussed the successful study of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the new three-tier system for England at a briefing No. 10 on Monday evening

The onerous tiered system announced by the Prime Minister will remain in place through March 31

The onerous tiered system announced by the Prime Minister will remain in place through March 31

"It's the time of year …" To be careful "

By Larisa Brown, political correspondent

Boris Johnson called for restraint over the Christmas season last night as he took a short Christmas break from coronavirus restrictions.

"This is not the time to rip the virus apart for Christmas celebrations," the Prime Minister said at press conference No. 10.

"It's the time to be happy, but it's also the time of year to be happy, especially with older relatives."

Ministers are likely to confirm this week that up to three households will be allowed to mingle over a five-day period at Christmas.

Mr Johnson told Commons yesterday: “I can't say that Christmas will be normal this year. We all want some kind of Christmas – we need it, we feel we deserve it.

"But what we don't want is to be careful and let the virus flare up again, which will force us all back into lockdown in January."

He said he was working with the decentralized administrations on a special, time-limited Christmas treat.

"But this virus is obviously not going to grant us a truce," he added. "Families must carefully assess the risk of visiting older relatives."

The Prime Minister said the government would publish guidelines for the extremely vulnerable on how to deal with risk at each stage and over Christmas.

Tory MPs questioned the Christmas rules, and former minister Sir Desmond Swayne compared Mr Johnson to Oliver Cromwell.

In June 1647, Christmas was abolished by parliament and soldiers were sent to end services and festivals. Traditional decorations such as holly and ivy were banned and the singing of Christmas carols was banned.

As Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658, Cromwell supported the implementation of these measures.

Sir Desmond said: “The last ruler to tell us how to celebrate Christmas or not was Oliver Cromwell. It didn't end well, did it? & # 39;

Mr Johnson said he shared Sir Desmond's "basic libertarian aspirations", adding that "I love Christmas, I love a big gathering".

But he warned, “The people of this country can see that there is a real risk that if we blow it up with a big blowout Christmas at Christmas, we will pay it in the New Year and they will have a careful and balanced one Life want approach and that is what we will deliver for all of Britain. & # 39;

The Prime Minister's Covid-19 winter plan document warns that "it will be especially important to be careful at the start of the new year".

It stated, "Christmas is likely to lead to an increase in transmission and historically the post-Christmas period is the time when the NHS sees the greatest pressure on services like A&E and the highest bed occupancy rate."

Details will be announced on Thursday. The ongoing far-reaching restrictions will face significant opposition from many businesses, particularly hospitality.

Ministers are already prepared for Rishi Sunak to reveal shocking figures on the impact of the pandemic tomorrow. A finance ministry source said the forecasts in the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review were "really, very bad."

Leaders in the North West were there last night and claimed the infection rate was much lower there than in London and the South East.

They warned that there had to be consistency and that the government should come to the negotiating table to support some of the poorest parts of the country.

Ugly disputes tainted the previous tiered system when Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham cursed Downing Street.

On a crucial day in the virus crisis:

  • Mr Johnson appealed to families not to abuse plans to relax the rules for Christmas, saying it was a "time to be extra careful," especially with the elderly.
  • He ruled out a mandatory vaccination program, but urged all those eligible to take advantage of the benefits.
  • The sport was given a hiatus, with a plan to let a limited number of fans back into the stadiums.
  • New rapid turnaround tests allow relatives to hug their loved ones in nursing homes this winter.
  • Tory MPs warned of a Commons riot next week after ministers refused to disclose the likely economic impact of Covid restrictions.
  • The "support bladder" system was opened up to more groups, including parents of babies;
  • Mass tests could be used to grant Covid-free "freedom passes" that allow them to break down social distancing.
  • The travel quarantine will be shortened to five days from December 15. This is a major win for the Daily Mail's campaign to get Britain flying again.
  • The curfew on the pub at 10 p.m. has been lifted and drinkers must be given an hour after the last 10 p.m. orders.
  • Scientific advisors warned that an even tougher "Tier Four" might be needed this winter to keep the virus at bay.
  • The councils are empowered to enforce the "immediate closure" of companies that violate the law.
  • Mr Johnson defended the testing and traceability system as new figures showed the cost is on the way to hitting £ 22 billion.

The post-lockdown system was set out yesterday in a 56-page “Covid Winter Plan”, in which the three levels are described.

The new rules apply at least until March 31 – more than a year after the first ban began.

Although last month's "stay home message" is being removed, people are being told to minimize travel and work from home until April as much as possible.

Business leaders welcomed the decision to allow stores to reopen before Christmas. Gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons are also allowed to trade on all three levels, and popular sports can be resumed.

But there has been misery for the hospitality industry, which faces crippling restrictions during the vital Christmas season and beyond. Before the lockdown, around half of the country was in the first stage. But the Prime Minister said there will be "many more places at higher levels" this time.

Mixing indoors is prohibited from level 2, including in pubs and restaurants. In tier 2, restaurants are only allowed to serve alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

In tier 3, pubs and restaurants are only allowed to offer take-away meals. Indoor entertainment, including cinemas, bowling alleys, and soft play centers, must close.

Emma McClarkin, executive director of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the new measures would "destroy our sector".

Jonathan Neame, executive director of the Shepherd Neame Pub Group, said the measures would be "devastating".

He added, “It's absolutely rotten for them to highlight hospitality in this way. It makes me sick. & # 39; Acting CBI chief Josh Hardie said, “Positive news about vaccines offers a ray of light for 2021.

"But the next few weeks and months will feel like purgatory for many – stuck between a national ban and a new normal." The prime minister said he was very sorry for the economic hardship caused but insisted it was inevitable as a third wave of coronavirus must be prevented.

He praised the breakthrough in Oxford and told a press conference on Downing Street: "We can hear the drum hooves of the cavalry coming over the forehead of the hill."

Purgatory to Easter: London could be stuck in the toughest phase as the prime minister unveils a new system to stave off a surge in winter coronavirus

By Jason Groves, Political Editor for The Daily Mail

England faces Covid restrictions for at least four more months, Boris Johnson said last night, fearing London could be classified in the new toughest level three.

In warning of a "harsh winter", the prime minister urged the country to steel itself for a "final push for spring" – if vaccine and testing developments "should" lessen the need for the restrictions we saw in 2020 ". .

He confirmed that the month-long second lockdown ends on December 2nd.

But Mr Johnson told MPs that it would be replaced in England with a "harder" system of graduated restrictions than last month. And it will last until March 31 – just before Easter and more than a year after the first lockdown began.

A young woman enjoying a double beer in a Glasgow pub after beer gardens opened in July

A young woman enjoying a double beer in a Glasgow pub after beer gardens opened in July

Calls for the fourth level are excluded

Posted by Kate Pickles, health correspondent

A fourth level of Covid restrictions called for by scientific advisors has been ruled out, as official documents suggest.

Ministers were advised that the move might be required in areas where the third tier restrictions did not result in cases falling sufficiently.

However, the three-tier system will return when the lockdown ends on December 2nd – albeit with tougher curbs.

Sage's Scientific Advisory Board said Tier 1 measures alone were "not enough to prevent the epidemic from growing rapidly".

At a meeting on November 12, it concluded that some models had a small 10 percent decrease in reproductive number – the R-value – when transitioning from Tier 1 to Tier.

The document added: “This suggests that Tier 2 is the minimum measure required to maintain some level of control over the transmission, although this would not be the case in all locations and there are significant uncertainties. In most cases, switching from Tier 1 to Tier 2 would slow growth rather than reverse it. & # 39;

Wise experts said it was unclear whether Tier 3 restrictions at a regional or national level alone would be enough to bring R below 1.

A Nov 11 statement by the Sage subgroup indicated that a higher tier may be required in severely affected areas.

It read: “There is great uncertainty about the effects of stages, particularly the third stage. Test and trace, including bulk testing, are most effective when the prevalence is low. Even the most effective testing and tracing system has little effect on high case numbers.

“Given that the impact of levels varies depending on the characteristics of the different areas, a tier 4 regime needs to be considered for those parts of the country where tier three cannot reduce the epidemic.

& # 39; This is particularly important in the run-up to the winter festival season, when a relaxation of the measures is being considered. Keeping the incidence flat or reducing it is critical. & # 39;

Whitehall sources warned last night that "very few" areas of England would be classified in Tier One, the only level where indoor socializing is allowed. Sources declined to include London in the third tier after a recent surge in cases.

Downing Street said people on all three levels would be asked to work from home "where possible" until at least April.

And while the formal stay-at-home advice is dropped next week, even those living in Tier 1 areas are being asked to minimize travel. Shops, fitness studios, hairdressers and beauty salons are allowed to reopen on all three levels.

Outdoor sports can also resume next week, and fans are allowed to return to the sports stadiums in limited numbers. But there has been misery for the hospitality industry, which has suffered crippling restrictions for months. In tier 2, pubs and restaurants are only allowed to serve alcohol to those who order a “substantial meal”.

In Tier 3, pubs and restaurants are closed to all but take-out.

The councils are empowered to order the "immediate closure" of businesses that violate the rules. Businesses will also face new fines for failing to promptly follow instructions from the council to implement measures to slow the spread of the virus.

As a sign of long haul, the government expanded the "support bubble" system to include other groups vulnerable to isolation, including families with babies under one year old.

Mr Johnson videolinked to the Commons of his self-isolation at # 10, saying ministers could not allow the virus to "flare up" again until the "scientific cavalry" arrives in the spring.

He said breakthroughs in vaccines and testing meant "a way out of the pandemic can be found for the first time since the onset of this pathetic virus".

But he added, "Without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge." Details of which areas will be placed in which levels will be determined on Thursday.

Shaun Bailey, the Tories mayoral candidate in London, told companies in the capital that tier three was "a disaster".

Tory MPs also warned that the prime minister would face a revolt if parliament were asked to vote on measures next week.

Despite the tougher measures, advisors warned the government that they may not go far enough and that a "tier four" may be required.

The UK retail consortium said reopening stores before Christmas would "help save jobs and the economy". But Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality trade organization said of the pubs and restaurant restrictions, "They're killing Christmas and beyond for a lot of businesses and their customers."

Gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons are also allowed to trade in all three levels, and popular sports can be resumed (photo in stock).

Gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons are also allowed to trade in all three levels, and popular sports can be resumed (photo in stock).

Regions have no say in the ranking

Communities are not consulted on which Covid level they are placed – and have no right to appeal.

The government will present a map on Thursday indicating which areas will fall under the three new levels of restrictions.

The process that could determine the fate of some companies is overseen by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

Downing Street said decisions would be based on five key factors – an analysis of cases across all age groups; the number of cases in people over 60 years of age; the rate at which local cases are increasing or decreasing; the number of positive tests per 100,000 people; and the "current and projected" pressures on the local NHS. However, economic factors are not taken into account in the decision.

And No. 10 did not publish any benchmarks showing which case levels would correspond to each level.

The system is checked every 14 days to see if the regions stay in the correct level.

However, unlike the previous tier system, local communities are not consulted about what restrictions should apply locally.

The decision follows a dispute between ministers and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham last month over tier three for the region.

Downing Street affirmed that communities will have no right of appeal.

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