Last reviewed 13 October 2020

As coronavirus infection rates rise across the country, together with increased hospital admissions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed the House of Commons to explain the Government’s latest plans for tackling the second wave of the virus.

It had already been confirmed, at a previous briefing, that NHS Nightingale hospitals established during the early days of the pandemic are being asked to prepare to take patients in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate.

Speaking to MPs, Mr Johnson immediately rejected the idea of a second national lockdown, closing schools and businesses and calling on people to remain at home. He similarly turned his back on the concept of allowing the virus to take hold while shielding those most vulnerable.

The aim had been, the Prime Minister went on, for a balanced approach, keeping schools open but restricting contact using methods such as the rule of six and trying to protect the economy.

Now, more is needed, he went on, given the complex network of rules and restrictions which have grown up across the country.

This will now be simplified.

Three-level system

To be applied in England from 14 October, this will involve treating regions as being on medium, high or very high alert.

  • Medium: will involve the current national measures such as the 10pm curfew and the rule of six (this will cover most of the country).

  • High: areas in this category will stop all social mixing between households indoors, with the rule of six continuing to apply outdoors.

  • Very high: these areas will see the prohibition of social mixing indoors and in private gardens together with closing bars and pubs. However, in Merseyside for example, gyms, betting shops and leisure centres will also close.

The allocation of other regions to the three categories has still to be confirmed.

Discussions with local leaders are continuing, particularly in those areas were the rate is very high, to determine if more stringent restrictions are needed. For areas on this level of alert, there will be further financial support for improved contract tracing and the offer of help from the armed forces in this regard.

The necessary regulations are being laid today, will be debated tomorrow (Tuesday) and come into force on Wednesday (14 October).

Retail, schools and universities will remain open, the Prime Minister emphasised.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

This latest update from the Prime Minister certainly seems to simplify localised lockdown restrictions, which have previously received criticism for being too complicated. Now, with this new tiered system in place, businesses in areas facing being labelled as Very High will presumably have more of an idea of what this will mean beforehand, even though full confirmation for specific closures in this tier, outside of pubs and bars, will vary from place to place. As of now, affected businesses will need to consider what measures are going to be necessary in response to their business closing, especially as this could be the situation for a prolonged period. Meanwhile, businesses based in Medium or High restricted areas may breathe a sigh of relief at the news that they have avoided closure, at least for the time being. Still, they must not become too complacent and continue to keep up to date with all developments. As we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, the situation can change rapidly.