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Oxfordshire to be in ‘Tier-2: High Alert’ post 02 December lockdown

Monday 23 November and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that England's lockdown will end on 02 December, to be replaced by tougher 3-tier regional measures that will be in place until 04 April 2021.

The allocation of tiers will be dependent on a number of factors, including each area's case numbers, the reproduction rate - or R number - and the current and projected local NHS capacity, and it will be reviewed every 14 days.

He added that many areas are expected to be in higher tiers than they were prior to the lockdown. An announcement on which areas will be placed in which tier is due to be made on Thursday.

In summary, the new tiered measures are as follows:

  • Rule of 6 applies indoors and outdoors
  • Minimise travel and work from home if possible
  • Pubs and restaurants to close at 11.00pm
  • Spectators allowed at sports events and live performances but with limited/reduced numbers; 50% occupancy or max 4,000 fans.
  • Gyms and non-essential shops including personal care e.g. hairdressing allowed to open
  • No mixing of households indoors; the rule of 6 applies outdoors
  • Minimise travel and work from home if possible
  • Pubs and restaurants to close at 11.00pm; alcohol only served as part of a meal i.e only pubs serving meals can serve alcohol
  • Spectators allowed at sports events and live performances but with limited/reduced numbers; 50% capacity or max 2,000 fans.
  • Gyms and non-essential shops including personal care e.g. hairdressing allowed to open
  • No mixing of households indoors and outdoors; the rule of 6 applies outdoors including public places like parks
  • Guidance against travelling in and out of the area
  • Pubs and restaurants closed except for takeaways and delivery service
  • Indoor entertainment / specator venues closed
  • Gyms and non-essential shops including personal care e.g. hairdressing allowed to open

In all tiers, exceptions will apply for support bubbles.

For more information on The Covid Winter Plan, click here.

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What tier is Oxfordshire after lockdown?

Thursday 26 November and Oxfordshire will exit the lockdown into Tier 2: High alert. This is for areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place. What this means is that we'll see a reopening of many of our cherished and struggling venues, as well as gyms, non-essential shops and personal care i.e. barbers and hairdressers. We'll also see a fair bit of festive socialising around Christmas. It will be reviewed every 14 days.

In more detail, the local restriction tier system that will be in place from Wednesday 02 December are as follows:

  • You must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • You must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs
  • Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals
  • Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
    • provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol
    • close between 11.00pm and 5.00am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt)
    • stop taking orders after 10.00pm
  • Hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10.00pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
  • Early closure (11.00pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11.00pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10.00pm
  • Public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
  • Places of worship remain open but you must not socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stone settings.
  • Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue
  • Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing
  • You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
  • If you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey
  • For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list

Based on the government announcement, it appears an awful lot of the country, including London and neighbouring Buckinghamshire, is in Tier 2.

Oxford Council invites residents to apply to join Oxford Residents’ Panel

Why is Oxfordshire in Tier 2?

You may recall that before lockdown 2.0, Oxford was placed into Tier 2 while the rest of the Oxfordshire county was in Tier 1.

The government set out the criteria in the COVID winter plan. There are five indicators.

  • Case detection rates in all age groups
  • Case detection rates in the over 60's
  • The rate at which cases are rising or falling
  • Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken)
  • Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy

Additionally, when setting the boundaries for the tiers, the government has now taken into account not only the geographical areas but also the human geographies that influence how the virus spreads such as travel patterns and the epidemiological situation in neighbouring regions.

It is worth mentioning that all three tiers are less stringent than the current lockdown scheduled to end on 02 December.

Thursday 26 November and following the announcement that Oxford is exiting lockdown into Tier 2 from Wednesday 2 December, Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council said: "I want to thank everyone in Oxford for sticking to the lockdown rules and helping bring the infection rate down in the city.

"This has been a whole community effort and the way you all have responded - businesses, residents and students - means Oxford’s case numbers started to come down last week. This is great news, but we are not out of the woods yet and we will all need to continue to take precautions to make sure the decrease in cases in the city continues.

"We are exiting into Tier 2, which means we can enjoy a bit more normality and social life, and it will give a welcome boost to our local businesses. Please do enjoy the run up to Christmas by using local shops and hospitality safely, but remember, the rule of six only applies outside and indoors you must stay in your household or bubble. Continue to take sensible precautions and don’t break the rules. What we each do now will make a real difference to keeping safe over the Christmas break."

Up to three households can mix for 5 days over Christmas in the UK

What are the COVID-19 rules for Christmas in Oxfordshire?

Tuesday 24 November: Up to three households will be able to meet up during a five-day Christmas period from 23 to 27 December. People can mix indoors in homes, places of worship and outdoor spaces, and travel restrictions will also be eased. But existing rules on hospitality and venues will remain and the "Christmas bubble" formed must be "exclusive". The measures will see travel restrictions across the four nations, and between tiers, lifted to allow people to visit families in other parts of the UK.

Oxford universities to roll out rapid COVID-19 tests so students can travel home safely for Christmas

What will happen to university students in Oxford over Christmas?

Tuesday 24 November, and both Oxford Brookes University and the University of Oxford will be offering students free and fast COVID-19 tests so that they can travel home safely this Christmas and prevent the further spread of the coronavirus to friends, families and the community. Read more about that here.

On 11 November the government set out guidance for university students to travel home at the end of the term. Students from both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University would be asked to go home for Christmas, during a "student travel window" between 03 and 09 December, to minimise the risk of them spreading Covid-19.

What about university students returning in January?

No plans have been announced yet for what will happen in January, that is either for students to return to university safely, or whether they may have to study online from home.

Mr Nadhim Zahawi MP for Stratford-on-Avon appointed as as a new health minister to oversee the rollout of the Covid vaccine in England

Government appoints vaccine rollout minister for England

28 November 2020 and the Government has announced the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi as a new health minister to oversee the rollout of the Covid vaccine in England which is expected to begin before Christmas, subject to regulatory approval.

Mr Zahawi, who is MP for Stratford-on-Avon, will oversee the distribution of the vaccine until at least next summer. And under the interim arrangement, Mr Zahawi will serve as a joint minister between the health department and the business department, where he currently works.

It is worth mentioning that as of today, the UK government has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 40 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech and five million doses from US firm Moderna.

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