Shops, gyms to reopen in England under new COVID-19 plan

Boris Johnson has made his announcement to the House about the introduction of a tighter three-tier system once England’s second national lockdown lifts on Thursday December 2.

While admitting his hope that the many vaccine-related developments will improve things in the long term, Johnson emphasised the importance of sticking to these new rules when it comes to controlling the spread of Covid-19.

Many establishments – such as pubs, bars, hairdressers, beauty treatments, gyms, theatres, cinemas and non-essential shops – will be allowed to reopen across the UK, depending on what tier their region is in. The “rule of six” will also return, rolled out differently across different tiers. Here’s a breakdown of the latest restrictions .

What places will be allowed to reopen on 2 December?

Gyms – as well as the wider leisure sector – will be reopening as soon as restrictions lift next week, Johnson has confirmed.

Beauty salons and hairdressers are also reopening from 2 December. Conservative MPs are said to have warned the Treasury not to dismiss the beauty industry – in particular – as an “afterthought”, according to the Daily Mail.

When it comes to eating and drinking out, pubs and restaurants are set to reopen, subject to what tier the establishment is in. Regions in tier 1 will be allowed to go out and socialise inside with table service only, with the “rule of six” returning for indoor and outdoor socialising.

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Pubs and restaurants in tier 2 will only be open if serving “substantial meals”, and those meeting people from outside their household will have to do so outdoors in a group of six people maximum. In tier 3, only takeaways and deliveries will be available.

Curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants will also be extended from 10pm to 11pm so that visitors can enjoy their drinks and food for an hour longer. Last orders will be at 10pm, closing time will be at 11pm.   

Non-essential shops are also due to reopen as the English national lockdown lifts, in time for the Christmas shopping period. In the previous tiered system these services operated as normal but with various social distancing and sanitation processes in place.

In tier 1, entertainment venues – such as cinemas, theatres, casinos and bowling alleys – can also reopen. Places of worship will also reopen their doors across all three tiers, with those in tier 1 advised to only interact with up to six people and those in tier 2 and 3 advised to only interact with people in their household and support bubble.

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Will we be allowed to visit family and friends?

If the region you live in is in tier 1, you can see friends and family within a “rule of six”, while in tier 2 you are limited to socialising outdoors with a maximum of six people. 

Regions in tier 3 will only be permitted to socialise with members of their own household inside or with others in outdoor spaces in groups of six or less.

Overnight stays will be allowed within the “rule of six” in tier 1, and only allowed within support bubbles in tier 2, and will not be permitted outside of the local area in tier 3 except for work or education.

In his announcement, Johnson admitted that he was “sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall – at least temporarily – into higher tiers”.

So the final answer will depend on your tier – which should be confirmed on Thursday. 

What parts of the UK do these new restrictions apply to?

While these restrictions only apply to England currently,  the Prime Minister also stated that the government is “working with the devolved nations on special dispensations [Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland] that apply to the whole of the UK” to allow families to mix during the Christmas period.

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What will this mean for Christmas?

Nothing has been confirmed as to how we will be able to spend Christmas – the government is expected to make an announcement telling us more later this week.   

Reports suggest the government will allow families to meet up between 22-28 December and form a “bubble”. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is also reportedly pressing for businesses to be allowed “normal days” of trade over the period.

Whatever happens over Christmas, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the days of lockdown and tight restrictions will be over. Public Health England (PHE) has suggested that for every day of loosening restrictions, five days of tighter measures would need to follow to get transmission rates back down.