England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said. Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter, which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas, to MPs on Monday.
The “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said. And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.
The cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the plan on Sunday before Johnson announces it to parliament the following day.
The plan will set out how people will be able to spend Christmas, but ministers have made clear that the festive season will be different from normal, with some restrictions expected to remain in place. Ministers will set out what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday and MPs are expected to be given the vote to approve the new tiering system, as promised by Johnson, in the days before it comes into force on 2 December.
They are optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.
But the prime minister will be wary of a rebellion from backbench Tory MPs who are opposed to new restrictions. During a vote on the current four-week system earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled to oppose the measures and 17 more, including former prime minister Theresa May, abstained.
Subsequently, the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) led by the former chief whip, Mark Harper, and ex-Brexit minister, Steve Baker, formed to resist new measures. The CRG on Saturday warned that they “cannot support” a tiered approach unless the government produces evidence to show measures “will save more lives than they cost”.
The warning against the measures inflicting “huge health and economic costs” came in a letter to the prime minister, which sources close to the group said had been signed by 70 Conservative MPs, though the group’s leaders were the only signatories identified.
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