Boris Johnson has confirmed that the curfew will be replaced with a 10pm ‘last orders' and 11pm closure order on hospitality in England, however the sector is set for tighter tier restrictions this winter.
The prime minister confirmed that the current lockdown will end at midnight on 2 December and restrictions will not be renewed, however he said the tiers "need to be made tougher" and "were not quite enough to reduce [the R rate] below one".
As a result, alcohol will only be permitted to be served as part of a substantial meal in Tier 2, a restriction that was previously applicable to the highest tier, and all forms of hospitality including hotels will have to close in Tier 3 except for delivery or takeaway.
Johnson said he was "very sorry for the unavoidable hardship this will cause" businesses, adding that "without sensible precautions we would risk the virus escalating" and the winter plan is "designed to carry us safely to spring".
The tier restrictions will also be uniform across England, and additional measures will not be negotiated with local authorities as they were before.
Johnson also said that more regions than before are expected to fall into the higher tiers. The government is expected to announce which areas will fall into which tier on Thursday and is working with the devolved administrations for a unified plan for Christmas, which it is also expected to announce this week.
It is hoped that a ‘six-week surge' of community testing initiatives of areas in Tiers 2 and 3 will allow regions to ease their restrictions and enter lower tier levels sooner.
The government hopes to end the automatic two-week isolation period for those who come into contact with someone with a positive test through rapid turnaround testing.
The prime minister also said that: "As soon as a vaccine is approved we will dispense it as quickly as possible."
Meanwhile, fans will be allowed back into stadia and sports venues in their thousands from next week and gyms, shops and leisure centres will be able to reopen across all tiers, while weddings will resume.
Elite sport clubs and events hosted outdoors in Tier 1 locations will be able to welcome up to a maximum of 4,000 fans or 50% of stadium capacity – whichever is lower – while in Tier 2 the cap will be set at 2,000 supporters or 50% of capacity. Indoor sporting events and fixtures in Tiers 1 and 2 will be able to host 1,000 fans or the same 50%.
However, the rule of six will still apply to hospitality, and people will still be encouraged to work from home where possible, even in Tier 1.
Johnson added: "2020 has been, in many ways, a tragic year when so many have lost loved ones and faced financial ruin and this will be a hard winter. Christmas will not be normal and there's a long road to spring, but we have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight."
Photo: Flickr – number10gov