The radio alarm clock’s just flicked on and it’s playing ‘I got you, babe’… Welcome to another COVID Groundhog Day, when Boris will come on the telly, flanked by his boffins, and tell us we’re ‘at a critical moment’. Again.
It’s been a few weeks since Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance darkly informed the public that we’re on the verge of catastrophe, so it looks like they’re about to do it all again and this time they’ll mean it. Back in September, their stark warnings were followed by Boris’s announcement of the ‘rule of six’ and new laws that forced pubs and restaurants to send super-spreader parties out onto the streets. And now we’re braced for the next raft of measures that will likely last until Christmas.
PM Boris Johnson went into a COBRA meeting this morning at 8am after a weekend of frantic planning and calls. It is likely that what will emerge is a system of tiers to be applied to each area of the country according to how bad the coronavirus risk is in that region. He’ll update MPs in parliament at 3:30pm and then he’s going to be on the telly talking to us at 7pm.
Here’s what we’re expecting…
This is obviously a plan that does not forsee a 'low risk' option developing...
Green – Medium Risk
The lowest level of risk is green, denoting medium risk (yes, it’s not massively encouraging that the lowest is still ‘medium’), and this tier still includes the hospitality-crippling 10pm curfew and the rule of six. This is obviously a plan that does not forsee a ‘low risk’ option developing…
Medium risk covers most rural areas, largely in the south.
Amber – High Risk
Away from Jurassic Park and traffic lights the word ‘amber’ doesn’t get enough airtime, so glad to see it back and messing up our lives for the next few months.
High risk, which probably covers London, will see the same restrictions as the first tier, but will add in a ban on households mixing indoors and overnight stays.
Expect sales of outdoor heaters to go through the roof…
Red – Very High Risk
The highest tier of alert is red, and will see pubs and bars shut, gyms close and a ban on households mixing indoors or outdoors. Non-essential travel will not be allowed outside the area and overnight stays inside or outside the area will be banned. However, it remains unclear if restaurants will be forced to close and they may escape, albeit with a ban on alcohol sales. However, a furlough-style system will be available to companies forced to close under this tier level, paying employers two thirds of their employees’ wages unto £2,100 per month.
Liverpool is set to be deemed Very High Risk, with other areas of the North likely to follow closely behind.
The Prime Minister will appear at 6pm flanked by both CMO Chris Whitty and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, underlining the importance of the announcement, and MPs will vote tomorrow to ratify the new measures.
On the up-side, though, there is talk of tinkering with the curfew to allow restaurants and gastro-pubs to serve until 10:30pm, presumably to clear the streets of the pub and bar revellers and give a little extra leeway to the hospitality industry. There are also rumours that the rule of six might be lifted for Christmas. Let’s hope.
See you all at 6pm. Just not in person…