Updated 20.00, 23.11.2020: New rules will be effective as of Wednesday 2 December, not Thursday 3 December as previously thought.
Updated 16.35, 23.11.2020: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that lockdown will be lifted and replaced by new stricter tiered coronavirus restrictions put in place regionally.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm that England will come out of national lockdown next Wednesday, with restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes permitted to reopen on Wednesday 2 December, with “strengthened” tiered coronavirus restrictions reintroduced across the country.
It means that London restaurants can expect to reenter at least tier two coronavirus restrictions — that is: limiting inside-restaurant visits to those from one household or support bubble, with outdoor dining permitted in adherence to the “rule of six.” Tier restrictions will be strengthened, with reports suggesting that restaurants will be permitted to offer takeaway only in tier three areas and the “substantial meal” clause will be introduced to tier two, impacting pubs, bars, and businesses focused on beverage sales. Details of the tiers will be confirmed in the House of Commons this afternoon, while confirmation of which areas are in which tiers will be given on Thursday.
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls took to Twitter last night, observing that the proposals were “absolutely devastating.”
Critically, for restaurants in tier one and tier two, the Prime Minister is expected to also confirm that the curfew put in place in September, will be extended by one hour, until 11 p.m., a measure which ought to bolster the number of covers a restaurant is able to accept throughout an evening service. Last orders must be taken at 10 p.m.
The announcement comes after two and half weeks of national lockdown, which saw restaurants and the wider hospitality sector closed but for takeaway and delivery for the second time this year.
Ministers this weekend have pointed out that the government feels confident restrictions can be lifted because the rate of infection has dropped as a result of the tighter measures. The government will also outline plans for mass testing across all regions, under the three-tier restrictions.
This morning, health secretary Matt Hancock told BBC News that with the news now of three successful vaccine trials — the latest being the Oxford University and Astrazeneca vaccine — the country could expect to return to normal “after Easter” next year.
This morning, UK Hospitality’s Nicholls responded to the news of successful vaccine trails, saying “significant additional controls [...] will cripple the UKs hospitality sector and impede economic recovery. There will be little left to benefit from a vaccine a this rate.”