It’s official. England’s second lockdown period will end as planned on 2 December. The Prime Minister has outlined his “Winter Plan” in an address to Parliament. It’s broadly the same as what we had before lockdown, with a few tweaks. Here are the key points for families.
1. We’re Back To The Tier System And Rule Of 6
From 2 December, we’ll be heading back to a system very similar to the one immediately before this lockdown. People in lower risk areas will again be able to meet in groups of up to six indoors or outdoors. The three-tier system will also be reinstated, though with “tougher” rules (see below) to help suppress the virus. We don’t yet know which areas are in which tiers, though the Prime Minister warned that more regions would come under the severe risk Tier 3 than before lockdown.
2. Who Can I Meet Up With?
If you’re in Tier 1, you can meet in groups of up to six people (from different households) either indoors or outdoors.
If you’re in Tier 2, you can meet in groups of six outdoors (including gardens), but not mix with other households indoors (other than those in your support bubble).
If you’re in Tier 3, then you can meet in groups of six in public outdoor spaces (e.g. parks) but not gardens, and not indoors.
3. Shops Will Reopen
Non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen (with the usual social distancing and facemask precautions). That includes toy shops, sports shops, department stores and all the other likely places for finding family gifts. This is the case in all three tiers.
4. You Can Go Out For A Meal Again
Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars will also be able to reopen for sit-down service in Tiers 1 and 2 (though pubs will have to offer meal services in Tier 2). Sadly, those living in a Tier 3 area will not be able to dine out, though eateries can remain open for takeaway, drive-through or delivery. Less relevant to families, but pubs can now stay open until 11pm, but must stop serving at 10pm.
5. Outdoor Sports Can Kick Off
Both adults and kids can play football, hockey, rugby or whatever else they fancy, so long as it’s part of a properly organised game through a club or group (i.e. no informal kickabouts down the park with a few mates). This is true of all Tiers. The rule also applies to exercise classes.
6. The Pool’s Open Again
Swimming pools, gyms, bowling alleys and other leisure facilities will be able to open again. Softplay centres will also be able to operate.
7. Museums And Galleries Return
Your favourite cultural venues will look forward to welcoming you back. Museums, galleries and other cultural centres can reopen once again.
8. Live Events Are Allowed… Within Limits
Sporting events, theatre productions and, of course, pantomimes will be allowed to go ahead, subject to capacity restrictions. In general, venues will have to operate at 50% capacity. Collective worship can also resume across all three tiers.
9. Travelling Restrictions Are Looser
So long as you take the usual precautions such as wearing a facemask, you can use public transport for any purpose (although we’re all still encouraged to walk or cycle wherever possible). The exception is Tier 3 areas. You should avoid travelling into or out of a Tier 3 region, unless it is necessary for work, school or some other vital reason.
10. Mass Testing Is Coming
The PM mentioned two scientific breakthroughs that will “ultimately make the tier system obsolete”. One is the much-vaunted vaccines currently under review. The second is mass testing using kits that give quick-results. These tests will become more available over the coming month. By Christmas, it should be possible for up to two people to visit a loved one in a care home, making use of the tests.
11. Christmas To Bring More Freedoms
The rules are expected to be relaxed further for a period over Christmas. The latest announcements suggests that up to three households will be able to meet up over a five-day period (23-27 December). More details will follow soon.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.