PM confirms re-opening of non-essential retail on 2 December
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that non-essential retail and the personal care sectors will be removed from lockdown on 2 December.
In an address to Parliament made via video, Johnson confirmed the widely anticipated move and confirmed that a newly tightened three-tier scale of restrictions would be introduced across the country.
Under all of the tiers, non-essential retail and personal care services will be able to open but there will be harsher restrictions placed on hospitality. The decision on which area falls into which tier is due to be revealed on Thursday.
“We don’t want to throw caution to the wind and allow the virus to flare up again and be locked down again in January," Johnson explained.
Under the new tiers, alcohol will only be allowed to be served as part of a substantial meal in tier 2, while hospitality will only be allowed to operate on a take-away basis in tier 3. Regions will be able to move down the scale depending on case detection rates in their area and, by taking part in wide-spread community testing, it would be possible to exit a tier to a more relaxed set of regulations.
Tiering will be based on case detection rates across all age groups, case detection rates in the over 60s and likely pressure on NHS services. But Johnson warned that most people will find that they are facing tougher restrictions after the lockdown than those that were in place prior to it.
Johnson said that two scientific breakthroughs will make the tiering system obsolete, one of which is the arrival of a vaccine and mass testing. Until a vaccine is improved for use, the Government is urging Britons to take place in widespread community testing using the so-called Rapid Flow Tests, which provide results in 15 minutes.
Tier 3 areas will get a "six-week surge" in testing to help them exit the most severe set of restrictions as early as possible.
Today news emerged that the vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca was shown to be 90% effective and is now being submitted for approval for use. Two other US vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, have also been submitted for approval.
Johnson confirmed that the UK had secured a total of 350m doses across all three vaccines, which was plenty to cover the entire populations (the vaccines required two doses to be fully effective). Roll out of a vaccine to the most vulnerable groups and front-line workers could begin as early as next month.
All being well with the vaccines it is anticipated that the UK could have vaccinated its population by Easter and Johnson confirmed that any tiered restrictions would be dropped as quickly as possible.