Appearing via video link to the House of Commons, the prime minister confirmed that the nationwide lockdown would not be extended but that the country would instead revert to the former system of regional measures.
The prime minister said that the previous tiers “weren’t quite enough”, explaining that the rules for the postcode system will be tougher compared to those announced in October, in a bid to drive the coronavirus transmission rate down ahead of Christmas.
“Without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or new year surge,” Mr Johnson said.
Mr Johnson also acknowledged that the tougher restrictions will impact a number of businesses. “I’m very sorry for the unavoidable hardship this will cause,” he said.
So what exactly is the new tier system and when will it be announced? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the tier system?
In October, the prime minister introduced a three-tier system of local lockdown measures for England to help control the spread of coronavirus.
The new rules saw different parts of the country divided into local coronavirus alert areas, including medium (tier 1), high (tier 2), and very high (tier 3). A regional approach was taken by the government to reflect differences in infection rates between the worst-affected and least-affected areas. The system also helped to clarify the confusing different rules in different places, which arose as regions in northern England, the Midlands and other parts of the country tried to contain local outbreaks.
The measures came after the number of coronavirus cases in England began to rise, with the number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 higher than when the UK went into lockdown in March.
When will the new tiers be announced?
Despite the tier system being announced in the House of Commons by Mr Johnson on Monday, people will not know which tier applies in their region till Thursday 26 November.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) November 23, 2020
During his speech, the prime minister said the tiers will be based on a number of factors including analysis of cases in all age groups, the rate by which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have coronavirus, and the current and projected pressures on the NHS.
The new rules will come into effect from the beginning of Wednesday 2 December.
How do I find out which tier I’m in?
After the government announces which tiers apply to which areas of England on Thursday, people will be able to use the postcode checker to find out the restrictions in their area or an area they plan to visit.
Meanwhile, the NHS Covid-19 app will be updated on 2 December.
The allocation of tiers will be dependent on a number of factors, including each area's case numbers, the reproduction rate – or R number – and the current and projected pressure on the NHS locally.
Tier allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, and the regional approach will last until March.
What are the rules for each tier?
The new rules in each tier under the tighter system are as follows:
Tier 1 (medium): People must only meet in groups of six or fewer indoors or outdoors. Pubs and restaurants will only be permitted to offer table service and will have to stop taking orders at 10pm and shut at 11pm. Overnight stays are permitted in groups of up to six people.
Tier 2 (high): The rule of six will also apply in these areas, however people will be banned from mixing indoors. Pubs and restaurants will only be permitted to stay open if they serve “substantial” meals and must only serve alcohol with food. As with tier 1, last orders are at 10pm and pubs and restaurants will close at 11pm. Overnight stays are permitted only with those in your support bubble.
Tier 3 (very high): People living in these areas will face a complete ban on household mixing indoors and most outdoor places apart from public spaces such as parks, public gardens and sports courts, where you can meet in groups of six or less. The hospitality sector may only remain open for takeaway, drive-through or delivery. Overnight stays are banned.
How do the rules differ from last time?
Unlike the previous tier system, gyms, swimming pools, beauty salons, places of worship, hairdressers, and non-essential shops will be able to remain open in all tiers. Wedding ceremonies can also resume in all tiers, subject to social distancing and a maximum of 15 guests. However, wedding receptions are not permitted in tier 3.
Some large events including live sport, live performances and business events can take place in tier 1, but these are limited to 50 per cent capacity, or 4,000 outdoor spectators and 1,000 indoor spectators, whichever is lower. In tier 2, this is also reduced to 50 per cent capacity, or 2,000 spectators outdoors and 1,000 indoors, again, whichever is lower. Large events are banned in tier 3.
Additionally, the rules will be relaxed in pubs and restaurants in tiers where they are allowed to stay open for table service. They will be permitted to remain open until 11pm to give people an extra hour to finish their food and drinks after last orders at 10pm.
Support bubbles will also be extended. From 2 December, you can form a support bubble with another household, if at least one has:
only one adult; (including a household where any children are under the age of 18)
only one adult carer (ie living with any additional adult(s) in the household that have a disability and require continuous care)
a child under 1 (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)
a child under 5 with a disability that requires continuous care (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)
You can find more information on the new tier system here.