WE’VE got some good news and some bad news.
From today, the second lockdown is officially over (hooray!)… but the bad news — this means new restrictions come into play.
So as Reading borough officially abides by tier two measures, we thought we’d try and answer some questions you may have about what the new measures mean.
What is the tier system and what does tier two actually mean?
The government first introduced a three-tier system before the second national lockdown in order to tackle coronavirus infection rates in different parts of the country by enforcing three sets of different rules.
Like with the first tier-system, this one has been designed so that areas with lower infection rates (such as the Isle of Wight and Cornwall) face more relaxed restrictions in the hope cases stay low.
Areas with high infection rates, however, such as Slough, face stricter rules in order to get case rates back down.
Will enforcing the tier system help bring coronavirus infection rates down?
It’s not easy to say what will happen next but one goal of the new tier-system is to avoid even tougher measures going forward.
At a press conference where he outlined his winter plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Together we have prevented out NHS from being overwhelmed.
“If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again… forcing us back into a new year national lockdown with all the damage that would mean.
“The tough measures in our winter plan are the best way to avoid this outcome.”
He added: “These tougher tiers strike a balance, they’re sufficient to continue driving the virus downwards but it’s important to recognise they’re less intrusive than the current national measures.
“But there’s no doubt that the restrictions in all tiers are tough and I’m sorry about that.”
How strict are Reading borough’s rules?
Reading borough will be in tier two, which means it is at ‘high-alert’ (despite having one of the lowest seven-day infection rates across England).
This is the middle tier, meaning while residents will have to put up with some tough new measures, a lot of places will be allowed to re-open from today.
Does this mean I can go to the pub now?
Yes and no. You may have seen some politicians arguing about whether a scotch egg constitutes a ‘substantial meal’ in recent days.
This is because pubs will only be allowed to open if they serve alcohol with a substantial meal.
Otherwise, they must close. So you can’t just pop in for a couple of pints and a packet of crisps, sadly.
What about restaurants?
Restaurants will be allowed to open, but there are a few caveats still.
They can only serve alcohol with food and must only provide table service. They must also call final orders at 10pm and tell everyone to leave by 11pm.
Lockdown has been boring. Can I go and have some fun now?
Yes — entertainment and leisure venues such as cinemas, adventure parks, and gyms are all allowed to open, but….
Cinemas and adventure parks must close by 11pm and rules around meeting other households indoors apply.
What are the rules around meeting other households indoors?
You can not meet anyone who doesn’t live in your household indoors unless they are part of a support bubble.
You can meet in a group of six outdoors, however.
So if you were to go to The Oracle, you could meet with your friends and family (in a group of six) outdoors but you could not go into the shops in a group.
So shops are open too?
Indeed both non-essential and essential shops are back open, and shop bosses will be looking forward to welcoming you back.
It’s important to remember face-covering rules still apply in indoor settings, so don’t forget to bring yours with you.
How long will these new tier rules last?
Tier two measures came into force at midnight last night and any decision about whether Reading borough needs stricter or more lenient rules will be decided on Wednesday, December 16.
It’s not clear how long the new tier system will last for, but some news outlets report they could be in place until at least March.
How are the tiers decided?
When judging if an area should be moved down or up a tier, experts will consider five things.
– case detection rates in all age groups;
– case detection rates in the over-60s;
– the rate at which cases are rising or falling;
– the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken;
– Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.