The government announced details Thursday of the three-tier regional measures that will take effect on December 2. Only three remote and island areas with a total population of 700,000 are at the lowest level, where pubs and restaurants can open almost normally and members of different households can gather inside.
More than half of England’s 56 million people, including London’s 8.6 million residents, are in the middle tier, where most shops, restaurants and leisure businesses can open, with some restrictions, and the public can return in limited numbers to theaters and sports arenas.
Another 23 million people in much of central and northern England, including the large cities of Birmingham and Manchester, together with the greater county of Kent in the south-east, will be located on the upper level, where pubs and restaurants alone They can serve take out and home delivery. and entertainment venues such as cinemas and bowling alleys must remain closed. However, stores, gyms, hair salons and beauty salons may be opened throughout the country.
“I understand the impact these measures will have, but they are necessary given the magnitude of the threat we face,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in announcing the details in the House of Commons.
The measures must be approved by Parliament, which will be put to a vote next week. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces opposition from some of his own party lawmakers, who say the economic damage from the measures outweighs the public health benefits.
Pub and theater operators were among those who warned that they cannot make money under the conditions imposed on level 2, where alcohol can only be served with meals and entertainment venues are restricted to half capacity.
“There has to be a real danger that if these restrictions are not lifted very, very soon now there will be a lot of companies that just won’t reopen,” said Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady, who said he planned to vote against the “authoritarian” measures.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own set of restrictions.
The new measures will be reviewed on December 16 and lifted for five days over Christmas across the UK. During the holiday period, travel restrictions will be lifted and up to three households will be able to form a “Christmas bubble” to socialize.
Britain has had the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe, with more than 56,000 confirmed deaths.
The government hopes that a combination of massive testing using vaccines and rapid response testing will allow most of the restrictions to be lifted by spring 2021.
Hancock said a massive testing project in Liverpool reduced infections by three-quarters and allowed the city to go from level three to level two.
Three coronavirus vaccines, developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, have shown promising results in clinical trials, but have yet to be approved by Britain’s drug regulator.