Coronavirus: UK to end nationwide lockdown, go back to tiered system

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Image PA Images

As well as the progress on vaccines, Mr Johnson pointed to the expansion of rapid mass testing as a way of returning to something approaching normality.

From next Wednesday all non-essential shops and gyms will be allowed to be open regardless of the severity of the tier, however each of the three tiers will be toughened up to avoid a repeat of the previous system which did not work effectively enough and led to the month-long national lockdown.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that events in the lower two tiers would be able to resume "with capacity limits and social distancing".

Regions under Tier 3 will face the toughest restrictions, and all councils in the most severe tier will be offered mass testing programs.

Mr Johnson also welcomed Monday's announcement by AstraZeneca that its COVID-19 vaccine developed alongside the University of Oxford can be up to 90 per cent effective.

In the top tier, pubs and restaurants will have to close except for takeaway and delivery.

Elite sport in tier three locations will still continue behind closed doors.

· The 10 p.m. curfew is scrapped, with last orders in pubs remaining at that time, but with customers given one hour of "drinking-up" time.

"But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge".

The loosening of rules only applies to England, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own restrictions.

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Johnson told MPs: "We all want some kind of Christmas, we certainly feel we deserve it". "What we don't want is to throw caution to the wind and allow the virus to flare up again", Johnson added.

He warned that it is "not the moment to let the virus rip for the sake of Christmas parties", saying: "Tis the season to be jolly, but it is also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives".

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party which urged Johnson to implement a national lockdown earlier, said a return to the tiered system that preceded it was "risky".

The clubs will wait until the Government publish details of the revamped regional tier system - which will determine how many fans can attend events in different areas of the country - before confirming individual positions.

"The bulk of the vaccine rollout programme will be in January, February, March", Mr Hancock said.

"The breakthroughs in treatment, in testing vaccines mean that the scientific cavalry is now in sight", the prime minister said.

The British drugmaker said "positive high-level results from an interim analysis of clinical trials of AZD1222 in the United Kingdom and Brazil showed the vaccine was highly effective in preventing Covid-19. and no hospitalisations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants". However, he confirmed that the new tiers will be set out later this week, most likely on Thursday.

The prime minister said that he can't say that "Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious".

But Helen Dickinson of the British Retail Consortium said: "The Government's decision to keep all of retail open will help to preserve jobs and the economy and help keep Christmas a festive occasion for everyone".

Initially, more counties are expected to be ranked in "tougher" tiers before being able to work their way down as infection rates drop.

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