Vaccines and tiers – all your questions answered

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined new measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 over the winter months.

Here is everything you need to know about the latest coronavirus restrictions, the vaccine plans, and whether families can celebrate Christmas together this year:

– When are we coming out of national lockdown?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the national lockdown imposed on November 5 will come to an end on December 2.

However, England will then move back into a regional tiered system of restrictions – similar to those introduced earlier this year.

Coronavirus – Sun Nov 22, 2020
England will return to a tiered regional system of restrictions (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

– What is the tier system?

There are three different tiers of restrictions, which will be imposed at a regional level depending on the number of coronavirus cases in that area.

Those living under Tier 1 restrictions will have the greatest freedoms, while people in Tiers 2 and 3 will face stricter measures.

– How will they decide on what tier to introduce?

Regions with high numbers of cases will face tighter measures, while those with fewer cases will have their restrictions relaxed.

To decide which tier to apply to a specific area, officials will look at coronavirus cases across all age groups, and specifically among the over-60s who are considered most at risk.

They will also consider whether infection rates are rising or falling and the prevalence of the disease per 100,000 of the population.

Coronavirus – Mon Oct 12, 2020
Pubs will be able to reopen under Tiers 1 and 2 (Peter Byrne/PA)

– When will I find out what tier I’m in?

An announcement will be made on Thursday.

– What is allowed under each tier?

Under Tier 1, people can meet a maximum of six friends or family outdoors or indoors.

Pubs and restaurants can reopen, but with table service only and an 11pm closing time.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

In Tier 2, people from two different households cannot mix indoors, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to six.

Pubs will remain closed unless operating as restaurants, with alcohol only served as part of a “substantial meal”.

Retail and personal care – such as hairdressers and beauty salons – can reopen in all tiers, and indoor entertainment venues – such as cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys and casinos – will be allowed to stay open in Tiers 1 and 2, but not Tier 3.

Tier 3 areas will see the hospitality sector remain closed except for takeaways, and groups of six will only be able to meet in outdoor public spaces.

Coronavirus – Mon Nov 23, 2020
A woman walks past a Christmas tree in Leeds (Danny Lawson/PA)

– Can I travel between tiers?

People in Tier 3 areas should avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays unless it is for work, education, health or care requirements.

Likewise, those in Tier 1 and 2 areas should not travel to Tier 3 zones, but can pass through them as part of a longer journey.

– Should I start making plans for Christmas?

Not just yet. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to confirm on Monday any details as to how people would be able to spend the festive period.

However, a plan to allow families to be reunited for Christmas is being developed with the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Coronavirus – Sat Sep 26, 2020
Scientists across the world are working on various coronavirus vaccines (Jane Barlow/PA)

– Is there a vaccine yet?

Not quite. Although vaccine developers have started to publish the interim results from their trials, which have so far been positive.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca team announced its vaccine had proved up to 90% effective.

– When will it be ready?

No one can be certain at this stage as no vaccine has been approved for use yet.

But the jab is likely to be rolled out in the UK from December, with the bulk of vaccination in the new year.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that, if all goes well in the next couple of weeks, the vaccination programme could potentially be rolled out from next month for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Camilla visits Paddington station – London
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Justin Tallis/PA)

– Will I have to pay for a jab?

No, the vaccine will be free on the NHS.

– Will there be enough for everyone?

The Government said it has secured access to more than 350 million doses of vaccine from seven developers between now and the end of 2021, which is enough to potentially vaccinate the whole population.

– Do I have to get a vaccine?

There are no plans to make vaccination compulsory, Downing Street said earlier in November.

However, Mr Hancock has also refused to rule out making it mandatory.

Coronavirus – Wed Jun 10, 2020
The vaccine will be free on the NHS (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– How long will immunity last?

The Government said in its Covid Winter Plan that the exact strength and duration of immunity provided through vaccination is not yet known.

Protection through vaccination takes time to build and requires a full course, but it is still unknown how well the first vaccines will stop the virus from passing between people.

– Can I choose what vaccine I get?

As things stand, the vaccines will be rolled out as and when they become available, depending on which are approved first and how quickly companies can make them.

No announcement has been made on whether one might be given priority over another as they become ready on a mass scale.

People are not expected to be able to choose which jab they want to receive.

– When will life return to normal?

While it is not known exactly how long it might take for the population to be vaccinated, Mr Hancock has said it is looking as though things may start returning to normal after Easter.

But until then, and until there is some kind of herd immunity in the population, achieved through vaccination, people will need to continue to wear face masks, socially distance and wash their hands.

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