The government has placed England under a four-week lockdown which began on November 5.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to end a lockdown across England as planned on December 2 and announce a return to regional restrictions as statistics show coronavirus infections have stabilized.
Mr Johnson’s office said on Saturday evening the government plans to revert to a three-tier system of localized restrictions in England, with areas subject to different measures depending on the severity of their outbreaks. More communities should be placed in the two highest virus alert categories, Mr Johnson’s office said in a statement.
The government has placed England under a four-week lockdown that began on November 5. Cabinet is due to discuss the plans on Sunday, and the prime minister aims to give parliament the details on Monday, the statement said.
Mr Johnson’s office has also confirmed plans to launch a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program next month, assuming regulators approve a vaccine for the virus. The government will also increase mass testing in an attempt to suppress the virus until vaccines can be deployed.
Mr Johnson announced the lockdown in England on October 31 after public health officials warned that an exponential increase in new confirmed coronavirus infections threatened to overwhelm the National Health Service as flu season approached winter. The lockdown has closed non-essential businesses and banned most social gatherings, but schools remain open.
New known cases of COVID-19 have started to decline across the UK, with the number of positive tests in the past seven days dropping 13.8% from the previous week. Some 2,861 COVID-related deaths have been reported in the past 7 days, 17 less than a week ago. The infection rate remains high at 244 cases per 100,000 people.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, has warned that gains could be quickly lost due to a virus that only takes “seconds” to spread.
People should “keep the pressure on this virus and push it as much as possible until the end of the (lockdown) period,” he said.
The government’s science advisory group, known as SAGE, is expected to release reports on Monday showing that the previous three-tier strategy was not strong enough and recommending tighter restrictions on its return.
In this system, a “medium” alert level forces restaurants and pubs to close at 10 p.m. and prohibits residents from mixing in groups of more than six. The “high” level prevents people from congregating indoors with people outside their household or an extended “support bubble”.
In areas subject to a “very high” alert, pubs and bars may only remain open and serve alcohol if they are accompanied by a large meal. People are advised not to enter or leave these areas.