Covid Winter plan: What to expect from the Prime Minister later today

23 November 2020, 08:27 | Updated: 23 November 2020, 08:35

Boris Johnson will address the nation today
Boris Johnson will address the nation today. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson will unveil his Covid winter plan to the nation today, including an update on how people can see their loved ones at Christmas and a return to tiered coronavirus restrictions post-lockdown.

Boris Johnson will present his Covid winter plan to the Commons at 3:30 today, with a televised address to the nation expected this evening.

As the Prime Minister is still self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for Covid-19, the statement and address will both be virtual.

He is likely to be hoping his new blueprint will fight the pandemic and save lives during the winter but also prevent a Commons revolt by rebel Tory MPs, who have threatened to vote against the three-tier system when it is presented to the Commons.

Plans to allow people to see loved ones at Christmas are in motion
Plans to allow people to see loved ones at Christmas are in motion. Picture: PA

Christmas plans

Boris Johnson is expected to lay out his plans to relax restrictions over Christmas and allow for "limited socialising".

It was announced on Sunday that families will be able to "bubble up" and enjoy Christmas together across all four UK nations.

Several households, most likely three, will be able to bubble temporarily for the festive season before returning to the Tiered system.

Families must decide on their extended bubbles in advance and will not be able to mix with anyone from outside that bubble during the festive break.

The relaxed restrictions are expected to be in place from Christmas Eve to December 28.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove held discussions on Saturday with Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford, and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, on shared arrangements for the festive period.

The ministers "endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days", the department said.

Restrictions on church services are also due to be lifted, allowing Christmas Day services to be held, reports have suggested.

Non-essential retail and gyms will reopen
Non-essential retail and gyms will reopen. Picture: PA

The new tier system

The PM is also expected to explain how a tiered approach will be brought in across England once lockdown ends on December 2.

More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the system, and restrictions in each of the areas are expected to be slightly different from the old system.

However, he will not announce which areas are in which tiers until Thursday, when the Government has access to the latest information on the virus’s reproductive rate, its prevalence and incidence in the population, and whether infections are increasing or declining.

Pubs and restaurants

It is understood pubs and restaurants will be allowed to stay open later than the 10pm curfew which previously existed once the Tier system is reinstated.

The plans will mean that, while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.

There are reports suggesting that pubs will have to serve a "substantial meal" with any drinks and people must stay within their household groups.

Pub closures are also expected to be relaxed over the five-day Christmas holiday period.

Gyms and non-essential retail

Non-essential retail will be allowed to open in a boost for Christmas shoppers and the high street, Mr Johnson will announce.

Gyms will also be allowed to reopen, in a bid to keep the nation fit and healthy in the run up to Christmas.

Both of these measures will be put in place post-lockdown, from December 3.

Testing

The PM is also expected to announce a mass coronavirus testing programme will be launched in the areas with the highest Covid rates in the country.

Mass testing will be undertaken in Tier 3 using the Liverpool, model, which the government claims has been a success.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already confirmed that the mass testing pilot scheme used in Liverpool will be extended to 67 more towns and cities.

Areas which will receive the new tests include Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands, other parts of the North West and the whole of the North East."

Freedom passes" may also be addressed by the Prime Minister.

These are passes expected to be given to people next year that allow them to forgo certain restrictions provided they have two negative coronavirus tests a week.

Announcing the testing programme, the prime minister is expected to tell MPs: "The selflessness of people in following the rules is making a difference.

"The virus is not spreading nearly as quickly as it would if we were not washing our hands, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and so on.

"And in England, where nationwide measures came into effect at the start of this month, the increase in new cases is flattening off.

"But we are not out of the woods yet. The virus is still present in communities across the country, and remains both far more infectious and far more deadly than seasonal flu.

"But with expansion in testing and vaccines edging closer to deployment, the regional tiered system will help get the virus back under control and keep it there."