Artillery Row

What are the new restrictions in England?

Boris Johnson says everyone must stay at home, but the rules are different to the March lockdown

Boris Johnson announced tonight that people in England “must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”.  In a message down the line from Downing Street he said that steps to fight the old variant were working, but that the speed of the new variant was “alarming”.

The announcement comes as the four UK Chief Medical Officers recommended that the UK Alert Level should move from Level 4 to Level 5 as “there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”

The Prime Minister said that the new strain was “50% to 70% more transmissible” and that “our hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since the start of the pandemic”.

A number of things have returned from Boris Johnson’s March 2020 lockdown:

  • Outdoor exercise is back to the once per day quota, and it must be done in your local area
  • All “non-essential” shops must close
  • Outdoor sports venues including tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools must close
  • Secondary Schools and Primary Schools are closing except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers (All other children will learn remotely until February half term)
  • Summer exams have been cancelled
  • Holidays in the UK and abroad are banned
  • Travel to a second home or caravan is also banned
  • The clinically vulnerable have been asked to shield

But there are also some differences to the regulations since then:

  • Nurseries can remain open
  • Support bubbles and childcare bubbles are staying in place
  • Outdoor exercise may be done with one person from another household if you live on your own
  • Churches and places of worship may continue as long as worshipers wear masks and do not talk to each other
  • A wedding “or equivalent ceremony” may only take place for up to six people and “in exceptional circumstances”
  • Funerals can take place for up to 30 people
  • You can meet in a “larger group” if you are visiting somebody who is dying or somebody who is in hospital
  • House moves can continue
  • Takeaways from pubs will be stopped
  • A number of university courses can maintain face to face teaching (after taking two Covid tests) including medicine, teaching, social work and courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments

The Prime Minister said the “one huge difference” compared to the first lockdown was the UK’s vaccination programme. He said more people had been vaccinated in the UK “than the rest of Europe combined” and added that by the middle of February “if things go well with a fair wind in our sails” the NHS will have offered a vaccine to the top four vulnerable groups: “all care home residents and staff, everyone over 70, all frontline health and social care workers and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.”

He hoped restrictions could be eased and regions could move “down the tiers” but said this depended on our understanding of the virus not changing, the vaccine rollout being effective, deaths falling, and if “everyone plays their part”.

He warned however that there would be a time lag of two to three weeks after a jab was delivered before somebody received immunity.

The Prime Minister urged people to begin following the rules now despite the fact that they are not yet law but it is unclear if they will be policed before the early hours of Wednesday morning when they come into force. And it remains to be seen how credible actually policing any set of rules will or can be, even if these ones become both stable and widely understood.

Parliament is due to be recalled on Wednesday morning. However, past promises to the Covid Recovery Group notwithstanding, the new rules will come into force before any vote in the House of Commons take place.

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