It’s not the new year we were all hoping for, with England being plunged back in a third national lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation from Downing Street and again called for people to stay at home to help tackle a further spike of Covid-19 cases across the country.
What can you no longer do?
On the surface, Lockdown 3 isn’t a great deal different for England residents already living under Tier 4 restrictions. Non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality venues remain closed as before, after all, and we were already restricted to meeting up with just one other person in outdoor public spaces (for a walk or exercise, for example). So what’s the difference?
For starters, the message is a more pronounced: ‘stay at home’. People are being asked to work from home unless they absolutely cannot and to avoid making journeys that aren’t essential.
One of the most significant changes people are having to navigate is the immediate closure of classrooms. While vulnerable kids and the children of key workers are still attending school, all other students must now study at home and attend virtual lessons all over again.
We’re also having to say goodbye to one of the stars of lockdown: the takeaway pint. While you can still order food and drink deliveries and collect takeaways of soft drinks and grub, alcohol pick-up is now forbidden. Meaning you can no longer pop to a hatch at your local to grab a pint to go or a cheeky red wine for your outdoor walks. Don’t worry, though, the unlimited outdoor daily exercise is a sanity-saving survivor.
What can you do that’s different to other lockdowns?
In the first Lockdown back in March last year, it felt like the world around us stood still, but there is more movement this time around.
Garden centres and building merchants can also remain open. As can dental practices and veterinary surgeries – for urgent care only. Market stalls selling essential produce are also allowed to operate in England.
Moving house can continue too, unlike last time. Viewings will be socially distanced and any other activities relating to letting and selling can go ahead as planned.
A few other exemptions include banks, places of worship and outdoor playgrounds which can stay open. Public services will continue too, from court proceedings to all the action at your local waste and recycling centre.
How long will Lockdown 3.0 last?
When PM Boris Johnson made his announcement on 4th January, he offered “the middle of February” as a tentative date for measures to begin easing.
Mr Johnson said: “By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”
He added that “we should remain cautious about the timetable ahead,” but said there was cause for hope if the vaccination programme rolls out as planned and deaths fall as a result.
Michael Gove subsequently suggested it was more likely that lockdown would remain in place until March.
He told Sky News: “What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions. I think it is right to say that, as we enter March, we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all.”
What do we know about the new variant?
“This new strain does spread more quickly and we’ve got to take this very seriously”.
England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, said the appearance of the new strain was “going to make things a lot worse”.
He said, however, that there were “really optimistic things if you look, once we get the vaccine out, assuming the vaccine works against this – which at the moment is the working assumption”.
You can check an area online via the postcode checker on the UK government website here gov.uk/find-coronavirus-local-restrictions
For detailed guidance on restrictions in each Tier, go to gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know