Briefing on Winter Plan

Government announced changes to the system of tiers and restrictions and a new winter plan on 23 November 2020. This briefing provides a simple overview.


Government's Winter Plan

This briefing provides a simple overview of the Government’s Winter Plan

What is Government trying to achieve?

The Government’s stated objectives are to suppress the spread of infection, find new ways of returning life closer to normal while suppressing viral transmission and protect education and the economy.

In order to do this, there are several key planks to this work:

  • Remaining COVID-secure while awaiting the vaccine roll-out. This means retaining essential measure which will enable that to happen safely.
  • Rolling out the vaccine – this will take until Easter to make a significant difference in the population’s level of immunity so it is vital to continue COVID-compliant practices and to continue with restrictions until then. Vaccines are not a “magic bullet” to allow easing of restrictions now. If we do, the worst-case scenario is infections rise dramatically at a time when we’re trying to vaccinate people.
  • A new tier system with new levels of restrictions to suppress the virus
  • The targeted use of testing with priority groups in the local population where it is felt testing will help identify cases which may otherwise be missed.
  • Some additional funding, further details to be confirmed.

The role of local partners continues to be vital in achieving these objectives and Government has asked Health Protection Boards to consider that their plans are still right for this new situation.

The role of local agencies continues to be vital in achieving this and Government has asked Health Protection Boards to consider that there plans are still right for the new situation.

What will change on 2 December 2020?

On 2 December, across all of England, regardless of tier:

  • The stay at home requirement will end, with travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.
  • Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen.
  • Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume.
  • People will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces - the rule of six will now apply outdoors as it did in the previous set of tiers.

Maintaining preventive behaviours

It is important to continue the key behaviours needed to get us out of the pandemic while we wait for enough people to develop an immune response from vaccination, which will take several months. So we need to ensure we have all the measures in place from individuals to workplaces, schools and care homes to continue suppressing the virus.

The most important way to suppress the virus is to maintain the right behaviour:

  • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a face covering in enclosed environments.
  • Maintain space, including social distancing with those outside your household or bubble.
  • Minimise the number of people you see/meet and where possible the duration of contact.
  • Get a test immediately if you have any symptoms and share contacts to enable effective tracing.
  • Make sure that any indoor space has good ventilation (for example by opening windows so that fresh air can enter).
  • If meeting people, try to do so outdoors.
  • Self-isolate if you or another household member has symptoms or has tested positive, or you have been notified that you were in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Vaccination and testing

Plans to deliver vaccination are well underway. The use of new lateral flow tests is also being rolled out and further briefings will be produced on each of these.

New tiering system

On 2 December a new tiering system will come into play in England. Local areas expected to be told by Government during the week ending 28 November which tier they will be placed in. This will be a Government decision. Tiers will be decided based on the following factors:

  1. Case detection rates in all age groups;
  2. Case detection rates in the over 60s;
  3. The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
  4. Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests and
  5. Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

This is explained in more detail below. The detail of guidance and regulation for some sectors is still being worked out at the time of writing.

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Meeting friends and family: Maximum of six indoors or outdoors, other than single households or support bubbles.
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Meeting friends and family: No mixing of households indoors apart from support bubbles. Maximum of six outdoors.
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Meeting friends and family: No mixing of households indoors, or most outdoor places, apart from support bubbles. Maximum of six in some outdoor public spaces (for example parks, sports courts, public gardens).

The Government will review the tiering allocations every 14 days. The tiering regulations will lapse at the end of March 2021, at which point the Government would need to return to Parliament with any proposals for further economic and social restrictions.

Headlines for new Tier changes

Stronger measures will be introduced in each tier to keep the virus under control:

  • In tier 1, the Government will reinforce the importance of working from home wherever possible.
  • In tier 2, pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants, and hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.
  • In tier 3, all hospitality will close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through; hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, including people staying for work purposes or where they cannot return home); and indoor entertainment and tourist venues must also close.

The Government will also refine the previous tiers:

  • The 10pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10pm and closing time at 11pm.This allows customers to depart gradually and provides greater flexibility.
  • In tiers 1 or 2, spectator sport and business events can now resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.
  • The Government is expanding eligibility of ‘support bubbles’. This will help mitigate the impacts of the restrictions on parents of children aged under one (or under five and with a disability that necessitates continuous care) and for those households where a single adult cares for someone with a serious disability.

Economy

Government has previously announced support for local areas. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and schemes for businesses will continue. Find out more about business support.

Places of Worship, Christmas and other Festivals

Details on what will be permitted for Christmas and other festivals is currently being worked out nationally.

Places of worship will be able to re-open for public worship, with rules according to tiers, from 2 December 2020.

New enforcement powers

New enforcement powers include:

  • streamlined powers to issue improvement and restriction notices to businesses that are breaching COVID-secure rules, with the ability to compel the immediate closure of a premise that is not complying with COVID-secure regulations.
  • Businesses will also face financial penalties for not meeting the requirements of an improvement or restriction notice issued by a local authority.

The Government is clear that these powers should only be used where necessary and proportionate to do so, and by trained local authority enforcement officers.The Government is clear that local authorities will continue the approach they have taken to date; engaging, educating and encouraging premises to comply, and only taking enforcement action to address the most pressing public health risks. 

Funding

Further funding will be announced from 2 December 2020 to the end of this financial year. The quantum for areas in Tiers 1 and 2 is not yet clear but for those authorities under the highest level of restrictions, this funding will amount to £4 per head of population per month. This will be reviewed in January 2021.

Education and childcare

Nurseries, schools and colleges are advised not to change their Christmas holidays or close early this term. Parents should continue to send their children to school during term time and students should continue to attend college right up until the end of term. Separate arrangements are being made for testing University students to allow them to return home.

Care homes and domiciliary care

Several changes are happening to this important sector:

  • Government is aiming to provide twice weekly testing to residential care staff and residents; this is in addition to the existing PCR testing regime.
  • A number of council areas have been working with Government on how to use testing and other measures to enable families better access to visiting their loved ones.
  • New guidance on visiting is expected.
  • Government has said that it will introduce regulations by the end of the year, that requires care home providers to restrict all but essential movement of staff between settings in order to reduce transmission.
  • No-one will be discharged to a care home without the results of a recent test; anyone in this group who tests positive should be discharged to a) a setting that has been assured by the CQC and designated by the local authority specifically for the purposes of providing safe care for COVID-19 positive residents, or b) to a community hospital bed set aside for this purpose.
  • Government has offered weekly PCR testing to domiciliary carers working for CQC registered domiciliary care providers across England from 23 November.
  • The Government has a launched the Adult Social Care COVID-19 Dashboard to help local authorities monitor outbreaks and infection prevention measures.

These measures will be significant work to step up, and we are working on the logistics locally.

Further details on tiers

Going to work

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Work and business: Everyone who can work from home should do so.
    Education: Early years settings, schools, colleges and universities open. Registered childcare, other supervised activities for children, and childcare bubbles permitted.
    Places of worship: Open but cannot interact with more than six people.
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Work and business: Everyone who can work from home should do so.
    Education: Early years settings, schools, colleges and universities open. Registered childcare, other supervised activities for children, and childcare bubbles permitted.
    Places of worship: Open but cannot interact with anyone outside household or support bubble.
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Work and business: Everyone who can work from home should do so.
    Education: Early years settings, schools, colleges and universities open. Registered childcare, other supervised activities for children, and childcare bubbles permitted.
    Places of worship: Open but cannot interact outside household or support bubble.

Bars and restaurants

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Bars, pubs and restaurants: Venues must be table service only. They must stop taking orders at 10pm and must close by 11pm.
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Bars, pubs and restaurants: Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. Last orders by 10pm and must close by 11pm.
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Bars, pubs and restaurants: Hospitality is closed, with the exception of takeaway, drive-through or delivery.

Retail, entertainment and personal care

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Retail: Open
    Entertainment: Open
    Personal care: Open
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Retail: Open
    Entertainment: Open
    Personal care: Open
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Retail: Open
    Entertainment: Indoor venues closed
    Personal care: Open

Travel

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Travelling: Walk or cycle if possible. Avoid travel into tier 3 areas (except where necessary, such as for work, education, medical attention, youth services or caring responsibilities).
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Travelling: Reduce the number of journeys made where possible. Avoid travel into tier 3 areas (except where necessary, such as for work, education, medical attention, youth services or caring responsibilities).
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Travelling: Avoid travelling out of the area, other than where necessary, such as for work, education, medical attention, youth services or because of caring responsibilities. Reduce the number of journeys made where possible.

Overnight stays and hotel sector

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Overnight stays: Permitted, with household, support bubble, or up to six people.
    Accommodation: Open
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Overnight stays: Permitted, with household, support bubble.
    Accommodation: Open
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Overnight stays: No overnight stays outside of local area, unless necessary for work, education or similar reasons.
    Accommodation: Closed (with limited exceptions such as work purposes or where people cannot return home)

Weddings, funerals, life events

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Weddings and funerals: Fifteen guests for weddings, civil partnerships, wedding receptions and wakes; 30 for funerals.
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Weddings and funerals: Fifteen guests for weddings, civil partnerships, wedding receptions and wakes; 30 for funerals.
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Weddings and funerals: Fifteen guests for weddings, civil partnerships and wakes; 30 for funerals. Wedding receptions not permitted.

Exercise and leisure

  • Tier 1: medium alert
    Indoor leisure, eg gyms and swimming: Open
    Large events, eg elite sport, live performances and business: Open to the public but limited to 50 per cent capacity, or 4,000 outdoors /1,000 indoors (whichever is lower). Social contact limits apply
  • Tier 2: high alert
    Indoor leisure, eg gyms and swimming: Open
    Large events, eg elite sport, live performances and business: Open to the public but limited to 50 per cent capacity, or 4,000 outdoors /1,000 indoors (whichever is lower). Social contact limits apply
  • Tier 3: very high alert
    Indoor leisure, eg gyms and swimming: Open
    Large events, eg elite sport, live performances and business: Events should not take place; drive-in events permitted.