Christmas is just around the corner and now with the government suggesting that the lockdown could be eased for the holiday, many people are wondering what’s in store for January.
There’s rumours that a January lockdown might be necessary if lockdown rules are lifted for Christmas. But how likely is this to happen?
We now know what the rules will be when lockdown 2.0 ends in December, as government officials have confirmed we’ll be heading back into the three tier system under new tier lockdown measures. Laid out in tiers one, two and three as before, the main difference between the restrictions this time will be on whether hospitality venues can open and on household mixing.
Potentially taking place in the first month of 2021, a January lockdown could possibly see restrictions – similar to those enforced in local lockdowns – imposed on all parts of the country to make up for any increase in coronavirus cases that would naturally occur if large numbers of people gathered inside together over the Christmas holiday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was one of the first to suggest that families might be able to have a somewhat “normal” Christmas, as he said before the second lockdown was announced: “All I can say to millions who are wondering the same question is that we will do our absolute best to try to make sure we get life back to as close as normal as possible for Christmas.”
“But that is going to depend I’m afraid on our success in getting this virus down, and our ability as a country to follow through on the package of measures.
“I have said it before and I will say it again but it will mean in those local areas that we talked about, we are not only going to intensify the measures but we are going to have to enforce generally the social distancing, the rules, the guidance – hands, face, space.”
Naturally, the idea of Christmas going ahead with fewer restrictions has already been a huge cause for contention as there was no change in lockdown rules to accommodate celebrations for religious holidays such as Eid and the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
January lockdown: Will it happen?
Even though the Christmas lockdown rules have been anounced, we won’t know whether there be will be a January lockdown for some time yet.
The current second lockdown, in place in England, is coming to an end on December 2. The government has already confirmed that all shops will be open for the season, along with gyms. Pubs and restaurants will have their previous closing time of 10pm relaxed. The government has also already confirmed that they won’t be extending the lockdown over Christmas and instead are looking to move England back into the three tier lockdown system that was in place beforehand.
However, ministers have already warned that it won’t be just like how it was before. Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said that the government would largely like to see “greater consistency” in the post-lockdown tier system and would certainly look at whether the previous system was effective.
He added that a revised system is necessary and would be decided in the next week or so to give people enough time to decide their plans for Christmas.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said, “We will be looking at whether the measures that we had in the old tiers were effective.”
“Remember, [the tiers] varied quite a bit in different parts of the country, because in Tier 3 there was a baseline of measures, which the chief medical officer and others have always said was only the beginning, and we then asked local areas to consider whether they would be willing to go further than that, some did, some decided not to.”
Where did the idea of a January lockdown come from?
The idea of a January lockdown first came from Dr Susan Hopkins, the medical director of Test and Trace. She said that for every day the rules were relaxed over the festive period, two more under more severe restrictions may be needed after Christmas to crack down on the spread of the virus.
Public Health England (PHE) later confirmed that Dr Hopkins had in fact “misspoke” and actually, for every day of relaxation there would need to be five days of tighter measures.
What will happen after the January lockdown?
If there’s anything we’ve learnt from the pandemic so far, it’s to expect the unexpected. With doses of the coronavirus vaccine thought to be rolling out in December at the very earliest, some believe that if we can quell the second wave of the virus soon then we might be able to resist the third wave with the vaccine.
So while we don’t know right now what might happen next year, what lockdown restrictions will be in place for Christmas and the effect that will or won’t have in January, what we do know is that the pandemic will not allow us to return to life as normal just yet.