England’s lockdown is over and Wild Wednesday has given the economy a much-needed shot in the arm with some shopping areas busier today than a year ago despite the country being in middle of a pandemic and gripped by Boris Johnson’s tier system, MailOnline can reveal today.  
Exclusive footfall data from Springboard shows that that retail parks are on average 6.2% busier with thousands more Christmas shoppers visiting this morning than the same day a year ago. But the UK’s ailing high streets and shopping centres are between 18.5% and 40% quieter today than 12 months ago, figures show.
Experts believe retail parks are the shopping destination of choice in 2020 because people can better protect themselves from coronavirus by driving there themselves and walking a short distance into Covid-safe stores. 
Today is being branded ‘Wild Wednesday’ because shops can stay open all night to claw back some of £900million-a-day economic hit caused by Boris Johnson’s controversial tier system. Millions are enjoying a tiny taste of freedom by storming stores including Primark, JD Sports and Debenhams to grab pre-Christmas bargains and returning to the pub for the first time in four weeks. 
Fitness fanatics also headed for the gym from midnight, others had haircuts at 1am or went to the golf course or swimming pool at first light while commuters went back to the office for the first time since November 5 as Boris Johnson’s controversial tiers system was approved in the Commons last night.
From Midnight, 99 per cent of England was placed in Tier 2 or Tier 3 – meaning they are banned from all indoor socialising with other households apart from over the Christmas period. Just Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly are in Tier 1.
Debenhams has started a fire sale of its stock today as administrators began to liquidate the department store after 242 years of trading. Shoppers looking to grab up to 70 per cent off items rushed into their 124 stores and waited in online queues to buy bargains.
Queues snaked around the block outside Primarks in Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle and social distancing went out the window as people ran into high street store as their doors opened this morning.   
As Boris Johnson suffered his biggest ever Tory rebellion over tiers, it also emerged today: 

  • Pfizer’s vaccine is APPROVED by regulators for use in UK and could be rolled out across country NEXT WEEK after Government orders 40million doses;
  • A special ID card with be given to people in Wales to prove they have been vaccinated – but Boris Johnson’s cabinet has ruled it out for England;
  • Tesco says it will repay the Government every penny of £585m in business rates relief received as it reports resilient trading through the pandemic; 
  • Debenhams expects to close all its 124 stores by early January – after a massive sale of stock after its rescue deal collapsed following Arcadia’s administration;
  • Fashion chain Bonmarche has collapsed into administration for the second time in just over a year, its administrators have said; 
  • Pubs are open again – as confusion continues about what constitutes a ‘substantial meal’ needed to have an alcoholic drink;
  • The Government announced a further 603 Covid deaths on Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 59,051.  There had been a further 13,430 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, as cases continue to drop;

Young shoppers with electric scooters try to force themselves into Oxford Street’s JD Sports as lockdown ended in England after four weeks and shops opened on Wild Wednesday
Shoppers rush into Debenhams in Oxford Street this morning to grab fire sale bargains as the retailer heads for oblivion
Tara Fazakerley celebrates hitting Primark in Bournemouth for essentials and Xmas presents as people queued from dawn to get into the stores
Shoppers laden with bags in Northumberland street, Newcastle, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time
Oxford Circus at dawn this morning as people returned to the shops in their droves, giving the economy a huge boost
The first customers of the day at Five degree West pub in Falmouth, Cornwall enjoy a pint. It is one of only three areas in Tier 1
Swimmers known as the Lido Ladies pose by the pool during sunrise at Charlton Lido in Hornfair Park, London
Barbers Emma Rolfe and Toby Sewell from The Town Barber in Falmouth, Cornwall, get to work with two customers before dawn
Gym members return to David Lloyd health club in Leicester as businesses reopened with restrictions today
Social distancing wasn’t possible on the Jubilee Line into central London this morning as the capital emerged from lockdown
Long queues of traffic on the A40 at Perrivale, West London as the second national lockdown ends this morning and replaced with tiers
There were traffic jams today but congestion in London is at the same level as a week ago, according to TomTom traffic data, and down around 50 per cent on last year
Despite the severe restrictions on 55million people, many are excited about returning to the pub from breakfast time or meeting friends outside for a pint later as long as they have a ‘substantial meal’. Landlords are using ingenious ways to get around the rules, including one in Worcester who have opened for drinks as long as people order food from the chippy next door. 
Pictures of the Tube showed some train carriages were packed during the morning rush hour – but while there were traffic jams  on busier routes, congestion in London is at the same level as a week ago and down around 50 per cent on last year, according to TomTom traffic data.
Gym boss Andreas Michli, 34, was mobbed by supporters as he threw his doors open on the stroke of midnight. The owner was fined £67,000 and taken to court last month by Haringey Council after a stand-off with more than 30 police officers over three days at the Zone Gym in Wood Green, North London.
People in England were quick to seize upon greater freedoms after the national lockdown ended and was replaced by a tiered system of restrictions.
And it appears many have hit the shops.
As lockdown lifted in Manchester and the city went straight into Tier 3, people could only enjoy the shops and bookmakers while cafes, pubs and restaurants remained closed.
Of the few people on Manchester’s main Market Street, many complained that the new rules meant little had changed.
Dance student Erin Kelly, 18, told Mailonline: ‘It’s nice to be able to go back into the shops but it doesn’t feel much different.
‘The pubs and a lot of cafes are closed so you can’t really go out and about much.
‘I think a lot of people are tired of the restrictions. We feel like we have been in them for ages.
‘I live at home still but a lot of my uni friends are sick of not being able to go out and about and see other people.
‘It all very quiet. It’s not what you want with Christmas coming up.’
Some shoppers woke up early to take advantage of the end of lockdown.
Cleaner Janet Oluwole, 66, got up at 5am to catch the bus into town.
She said: ‘The bus was a bit busy but it does feel really quiet.
‘I have just been to Primark to buy a £1 t-shirt and I want to do some more Christmas shopping.
‘It feels great to be out of the house and to be able to go into a shop.’
JD Sports staff have to warn customers to enter the Oxford Street branch carefully today as social distancing went out the window
Debenhams (pictured in central London) has started a fire sale of its stock today as administrators began to liquidate the department store after 242 years of trading
Much of the Debenhams stock has been slashed in prince by 50 to 70 per cent as administrators try to claw back money
Shoppers hit Primark in Exeter, Devon, as high streets were busy again because non-essential shopping is now allowed outside Tier 3
Two women wrestle with their bags and wrapping paper outside Lakeside in Thurrock
Shoppers queue outside Zara in the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham as town and city centres came alive again
Members of Allerton Manor Golf Club in Liverpool play a round of golf the first morning after the national coronavirus lockdown was lifted
A man has a trim in Barber Barber hair salon in Liverpool city centre this morning. Some barbers opened at 1am
Footlocker in central London was also busy as people queued for discounted trainers on the first proper day of Christmas shopping
Security was needed at shoppers entered Primark at 7am in Oxford Street as people rushed to get bargain
Primark stock is rolled into its Oxford street store by staff this morning as retailers hope for a Christmas shopping boost
Sophia Sammee is among the many thousands of people who went back to the gym this morning for their fitness fix as lockdown restrictions ended 
Paul Crossman (left a licensee and pub campaigner based in York, toasts the end of lockdown as millions are able to go out drinking with a ‘substantial meal’
Care homes will be first to get Covid-19 jab ‘if it’s doable’ as Britain APPROVES Pfizer’s 95% effective jab 
The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer /BioNTech has been approved by the Regulatory Agency
Care homes residents and the staff who look after them will be first in line to receive Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, it was confirmed today after the breakthrough jab sealed approval from Britain’s medical regulator.
But officials stopped short of guaranteeing care homes would get the vaccine before anyone else, admitting ‘whether or not that is actually doable depends on deployment and implementation’.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine has been shown to block 95 per cent of Covid-19 infections in late-stage trials, with equal efficacy among younger volunteers and those over 65 who are most at risk from Covid.
But it needs to be stored at -70C which makes transporting the vaccine to care homes a logistical nightmare. Fifty NHS hospitals are already equipped with super-cold freezers, meaning healthcare staff could be immunised first.
Matt Hancock said 800,000 doses of the jab enough to vaccinate 400,000 people because it is administered in two shots will be made available ‘from next week’ as he declared the end of the pandemic was now ‘in sight’. The UK has ordered 40million doses in total, with 10 million due by the end of 2020 and the rest next year.
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) moved with unprecedented speed to approve Pfizer’s vaccine within just a week of receiving the final data from the jab’s phase three trials. The watchdog had been conducting a ‘rolling review’ of the jab, scrutinising data from its studies in real-time.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine insisted that despite the rapid approval, the vaccine had been assessed with ‘with meticulous care’ and ‘no corners had been cut’.
Announcement of Pfizer’s approval comes on the day England emerged from its second national lockdown and shops reopened for ‘wild Wednesday’.
Reg Steer, 78, was eagerly waiting outside the entrance to the Asparagus pub a Wetherspoons in Battersea, south-west London – for the doors to open at 8am.
The retired roofer said he hadn’t had a beer for the whole of lockdown and was looking forward to treating himself.
‘I’ve not had one pint, although no one believes me,’ he told MailOnline. ‘I don’t drink at home, that’s for alcoholics. I didn’t drink during the first lockdown either.’
He had already read the rules so knew that a small wrap would constitute a ‘substantial meal’ that would allow him to order a beer when the bar opened at 9am.
‘I asked someone the other day what the basic meal was and they said it was an egg wrap [£2.99],’ he said. ‘So I’m getting in mine at 8am so I can have my drink at 9am.
‘It’s nice to be back. But the gutter is once you’ve had the meal you can only have to two drinks and then you have to leave.
‘Otherwise you go to another pub and do the same just go from pub to pub.’
Damian Brady, 66, was enjoying a drink at the Asparagus with his fellow regulars Steve Baker, 65, and their friend Sidney.
Mr Brady ordered a Kronenbourg with his Full English breakfast, but was frustrated with the Government’s new rules.
He told MailOnline: ‘This breakfast will be the slowest breakfast in history, I’ll still be here at 4pm. One bean, two beans
‘The Government has got no idea the rules are absolutely childish. There’s no set pattern whatsoever.’
Mr Brady tried to order a second pint when the waitress delivered his breakfast but was told by his friends this was against the rules.
‘I tried it and I failed,’ he joked. ‘The rules remind me of a jigsaw it’s nearly that complicated.
‘At the same time it’s great to come to come to the pub and speak to people.
‘Although I was happy at home four tins of Stella, £5.50, and four cans of Guinness, £5 I was in my element.’
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Thousands of retailers are looking forward to welcoming back customers.
‘Safety remains the biggest priority for retailers, who have spent hundreds of millions to make stores Covid-secure.
‘With billions in sales lost during lockdown, stores are looking to offer a safe and enjoyable shopping experience to bring back customers.
‘Christmas is around the corner so everyone has a reason to be visiting their local shops.
‘Every purchase we make is a retailer helped, a job protected and a local community supported.’
Shops, restaurants, bars, and other businesses in Falmouth, Cornwall, today opened their doors as the county stepped out of lockdown and into Tier One restrictions.
Emma Rolfe and Toby Sewell, both 51, from the Town Barber, opened their shop at first light and had two customers by 8am.
Toby said: ‘It’s good to be back in business, we haven’t opened earlier than usual – we just got up and got started like normal.’
Jon Newton, 31, the general manager of local pub Five Degrees West, pulled his first pint at 9am for a waiting drinker.
He said: ‘We’re delighted with the Government’s decision to place us in Tier One, but obviously you have to feel for the businesses that haven’t been able to open like normal.
‘It’s been a tough year but we’re hoping that people will pop out and join us for a pint.
‘Some of the policies put in place, like the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, were beneficial to us but that doesn’t make up for the months that we were closed during lockdown.
‘It’s definitely a positive to be open in December, it’s one of the busiest times of year for us.
‘This year we’ve been trying to specialise and have started offering pizzas, as a way to prepare for if we go into a third lockodwn – so we can offer takeaway pizza. We want to be prepared.’
Youngsters laden with bags queue outside JD Sports as a police officer watches Oxford Street in the foreground
General manager Jon Newton serves a beer to the first customer of the day at Five degree West in Falmouth
People queued to get into Cheltenham’s John Lewis store to grab some bargains from the shelves
Womenswear retailer Bonmarche collapses – 1,500 jobs at risk
Womenswear retailer Bonmarche has collapsed into administration for the second time in just over a year, its administrators have said
Womenswear retailer Bonmarche has collapsed into administration for the second time in just over a year, its administrators have said. 
The brand has recently struggled with rising costs, such as business rates and rising wages, as well as dwindling footfall on UK high streets.
Bonmarche was previously bought in a rescue deal by private equity firm Sun European Partners in 2012. 
The company was later floated on the London stock exchange before retail tycoon Philip Day purchased a majority stake earlier this year.
A large number of shareholders then sold their stakes to Mr Day, giving him a 95 per cent ownership in the struggling retailer.
Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner threw open his doors at the stroke of midnight. 
All non-essential shops are allowed to open from today, paving the way for a festive spending spree that will likely drive people back to the nation’s ailing high streets. 
A fire sale at Debenhams is expected to fuel the shopping bonanza as bargain-hunters are lured by price cuts of up to 70 per cent ahead of the company’s impending liquidation following the collapse of rescue talks.
A precursor to today’s likely stampede for generous discounts – as the chain reopens its soon-to-be axed 124 stores – was seen last night when more than a million people swamped the department store’s website.   
The sudden burst of activity as England flings off the blanket restrictions is being dubbed ‘Wild Wednesday’ – but will still see the overwhelming majority of the public living under draconian laws. 
Boris Johnson last night overcame the largest Tory rebellion of his premiership for his new tier system to clear the Commons by 291 to 78, with abstaining Labour MPs getting the vote across the line.
It heralds a tack back to the Government’s previous strategy of carving the country into three ‘alert levels’ – albeit this time with harsher measures and with 99 per cent of the country facing the top two tiers. 
Pubs have had their curfew extended to 11pm but are grappling with the fresh regulations. In Tier 2, they can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’ and in Tier 3 they are limited to just takeaways. 
But despite the presence of the pandemic still looming large over everyday life, many Britons were jubilant as the showering of freedoms came into effect today. 
Early morning swimmers during sunrise at Charlton Lido at south-east London this morning as people took a step towards much needed normality
People queueing outside T.K.Maxx in Birmingham where they can get  up to 60 per cent off items inside
People queued around the block to get into their local Primark as it opened for the next 24 hours 
Commuters cross London Bridge this morning as more offices open up after four weeks of only essential travel
Shoppers queue outside Primark in Birmingham as England’s lockdown ended and people went out shopping on Wild Wednesday
Inside shoppers grabbed bargains with Primark’s stores among those opening for 24-hours to claw back cash
Queues outside of Primark on Northumberland street in Newcastle city centre this morning one hour before the store opens
Wetherspoons pub in Southampton getting tables out ready for the first day of trading again after lockdown
Some of the most hardcore fitness fanatics even hit the weights for a midnight workout as one London gym owner, Andreas Michli, (pictured), who was previously fined for breaching lockdown, threw open his doors on the stroke of midnight
The Tube was busier than usual at London Bridge station this morning as people returned to the office
People wearing face masks walk past a sign on Market Street, Manchester, which is in Tier 3 but wants to get to Tier 2
Debenhams on Oxford Street in London last night. The 242-year-old brand entered administration and shops will shortly close
Boris Johnson last night overcame the largest Tory rebellion of his premiership for his new tier system to clear the Commons by 291 to 78, with abstaining Labour MPs getting the vote across the line 
‘Off for a cooked breakfast and a pint!’: Tier Two drinkers rejoice as lockdown ends while those in Tier Three are left pining for the pub 
England’s second national lockdown came to and end overnight, sparking a wave of excitement across social media as people prepare to return to the pubs – and landlords get set for a busy day serving ‘substantial meals’.
Social media users this morning rejoiced the ending of the month-long shutdown, which ended overnight.
The lockdown rules will be replaced by a new tiered system from today. The rules mean pubs in Tier 2 areas, including London and large parts of the south-east, can reopen.
Hours after the lockdown was lifted, social media users in Tier 2 were quick to show their readiness to return to the pubs.
But those in Tier 3, where pubs and restuarants can only open for takeaway, were left pining for a pint.
One Twitter user, Neil Hughes, said: ‘I’m off for a cooked breakfast and a pint.’
Nay Evans, said: ‘End of lockdown, we made it. See use (sic) in the pub for 5 Guinness and a Cesar salad.’
Another said: ‘Lockdown is over, you can catch me at the pub with my friends tonight, unless you are in Tier 2 or 3.’ 
Gym boss Andreas Michli, 34, was mobbed by supporters tonight as he threw his doors open on the stroke of midnight.
The owner was fined £67,000 and taken to court last month by Haringey Council after a stand-off with more than 30 police officers over three days at the Zone Gym in Wood Green, North London.
But last night he was back in business and welcomed around 60 people through his doors – and boasted the prime minister had been swayed by his protest.
As crowds queued up to get back on the treadmills, Mr Michli told MailOnline: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister’s mind about allowing gyms to open.
‘He saw what was going on and he listened. But the war goes on and now it’s not just about gyms anymore. I feel like I’m fighting on behalf of businesses of all kind.
‘So many business owners are suffering, so it’s great to see the buzz here tonight and the excitement now that we are opening up again.’
Among those first in the door was personal trainer Sophia Sammee, 35, from Friern Barnet, North London who said: ‘You can see the happiness in people’s faces here tonight.
‘Everyone is buzzing that lockdown is over.’ This gym has been my home and I really wanted to be here on the stroke of midnight. Andreas was brave to stay open and I was proud to support him.’
Paralegal Dennis Adjei-Sarpong, 26, said: ‘There are so many smiles here tonight now that this place is back open. People just want to get lost in their work-outs and their fitness again. I myself can’t wait to hit the weights. It’s a great moment.’   
Mr Michli clocked up a fortune in fixed penalty notices only to rip them up on his Instagram channel and invite members back to his gym -only for magistrates to close him down.
Despite breaking the law during lockdown he says he had been swamped with messages of support from well-wishers across the country.
‘I’m not paying the fine and if Haringey Council want the money then they will have to take me to court, because I’m not handing over a penny. I feel like the public have swayed behind me and it’s an incredible feeling.
Mr Michli told MailOnline: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind we succeeded in changing the Prime Minister’s mind about allowing gyms to open’
The UK recorded another 13,430 coronavirus infections and 603 deaths in the past 24 hours as England exits shutdown
PM suffers biggest revolt of his premiership – but wins tiers vote  
Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. 
The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns.    
While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories including Julian Lewis, who is suspended made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. 
Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians. 
Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.
The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier’s authority continues to wane. 
‘We were expecting a big crowd at twelve because we’ve had so many people saying on social media they wanted to be here for when the doors open.
‘We’ve had a lot of love and support from across the country backing us. Because we’re a 24-hour gym, it made sense to open on the stroke of midnight.’
Mr Michli has 1,200 members but social distancing rules mean he will be limited to 85 members in his gym at any one time.
‘We will be following the government guidelines relating to how many people can be on the premises at any one time. And we will be enforcing social distancing. Still it’s a big step back to normal life.’ 
Wild Wednesday is also expected to see a blitz of high street stores as people look to snap up gifts weeks out from Christmas.
It will be fuelled by a bargain bonanza from Debenhams which has slashed prices on handbags, shoes, boots, watches and dresses.
The chain has become the latest high street casualty and will be liquidated in the New Year after rescue talks with JD Sport fell through, drawing a line under 242 years of trading and jeopardising 12,000 jobs.   
Late Tuesday night there was a 20-minute wait ‘due to exceptional demand’ with over 300,000 trying to get on to the website at one point, and the total number of shoppers topping one million.
A bruising year for the retail sector amid the pandemic climaxed this week when both Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group collapsed. 
Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, tipped into administration, putting 13,000 jobs at risk. 
Meanwhile people on social media are today celebrating the end of lockdown and the start of Tier 2 restrictions in some areas – where pubs will be allowed to open again.
One Twitter user, Jo Mac, said: ‘And we are out of lockdown! Wohoooo!!! Who wants to come to the pub with me for a pint and a substantial meal?’ 
 Another said: ‘Woohoo!! Lockdown has ended. We are free to have a beer down the pub.
‘With a scotch egg of course. Do we have to sit at a table and use a knife and fork to eat it, or can we stand at the bar?’
Another said: ‘Lockdown is over, you can catch me at the pub with my friends tonight, unless you are in Tier 2 or 3.’
Almost all parts of England started life today under new coronavirus curbs with a ban on households mixing indoors and restrictions on hospitality.
Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West have been put in the most restrictive tier three, but London and much of the South are in tier two.
Some 23.3million people are under the most stringent restrictions, while 32million people are in the second tier after the national lockdown finished at midnight.
In tier two, the restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors and pubs, and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’.
Tier three measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks, with restaurants limited to takeaway or delivery.
Here, MailOnline answers some of the key questions about the new system, which has slightly different rules to the tiers imposed before the second lockdown:  
How do I find out what tier I’m in?
The Government launched a postcode checker here. It initially experienced technical problems and was removed last week, but is now back up and running.
You can also scroll down for our list of what areas are in tier two and three. The only areas in tier one are Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly.
When did the restrictions take effect?
The national lockdown for England ended at 00.01am this morning, with the new tier restrictions coming into effect at that point. 
How often will the tier placings be reviewed?
The tiers will be reviewed every two weeks, with the first review coming up on December 16. 
The new tiers will go be announced on the following day, December 17, and take effect on December 19, which is the last Saturday before Christmas.
What does ‘tier two’ mean?
This means the area is on a ‘high alert’ for coronavirus, with the Government saying it shows it has a ‘higher or rapidly rising level of infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place’.
Can I see my friends or family indoors?
No, unless they are in your household. You cannot 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
Can I see my friends and family outdoors, including in gardens? 
Yes, with restrictions. You cannot socialise in a group of more than six people outside, including in a garden or a public space. This is called the ‘rule of six’.
Can I go the pub?
Yes, with restrictions. You can only inside a pub with your own household, and they are only allowed to serve alcohol with ‘substantial meals’.
You can go outside a pub with members of other households within the ‘rule of six’, but the same rules apply regarding alcohol.
What is a substantial meal?
There has been some doubt over the exact definition, with Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick suggesting last month that a Cornish pasty would only fall within the rules if it came on a plate with a salad or chips.
The widely-accepted definition is that it must be a proper meal, rather than crisps, nuts or other bar snacks.
Can I go to a restaurant?
Yes, with the same restrictions as above regarding where you can sit with members of other households. 
Can I go up to the bar at a pub or restaurant?
No. Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol. 
Are nightclubs reopening?
No, nightclubs still remain closed by law. 
Is the curfew on pubs and restaurants still in place?
Yes, but it has been put back an hour. Now, hospitality venues serving alcohol must close between 11pm and 5am, and stop taking orders after 10pm.
Are there exemptions to the curfew? 
Yes, hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are all exempt from the curfew.
Can you still get a takeaway after 10pm?
Yes. Hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through.
Are other businesses also under the curfew?
Yes, the 11pm closure applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and bingo halls. 
Are there exemptions for cinemas and theatres with late shows?
Yes. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm.
Are there new capacity rules on audiences at events?
Yes. Public attendance at outdoor and indoor events is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50 per cent capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors
The City of London is surrounded by haze this morning. The capital will be in tier two next week
Can I go to watch live sport?
Yes. 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 per cent capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors.
Can I go to church?
Yes. Places of worship will be open but you cannot socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies.
Are weddings back on?
Yes. Weddings can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions.
Are funerals still permitted?
Yes. Now 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stonesettings.
Can organised sport continue?
Yes. Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue.
What about organised indoor sport?
Yes, with restrictions. 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.
Will gyms be open?
Are there restrictions on travel?
Yes. The Government says you can travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.
Do the rules change if you travel to a tier one area?
No. If you live in a tier two area, you must continue to follow tier two rules when you travel to a tier one area. 
What about if you go to a tier three area?
The Government advises people to avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier three areas ‘other than where necessary’, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.
It adds that people can travel through a tier three area as a part of a longer journey.
If moving between tiers, which rules do you follow?
You must follow the rules of the tier you are in, or the tier you are visiting – whichever is higher. 
Can you go abroad?
Yes, with exemptions. For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.
What areas are in tier two?
Here is a full list of the areas in tier two, according to the Government website. 
What does ‘tier three’ mean? 
This is a ‘very high’ alert level – the highest of the three-tier system – for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place. 
Can I see my friends or family indoors? 
No, unless they are in the same household. The rules for this are the same in tier two.
Can I see my friends and family outdoors?
Yes, but not in private gardens. You can only socialise in groups of up to six people in other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility.
People out in Leeds today, before the city enters tier three next Wednesday after lockdown
Can I go the pub or restaurant?
No. These all have to shut under law, except for takeaway. 
Can I get a takeaway?
Yes. Hospitality settings, such as pubs, cafes and restaurants are allowed to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.
Can I stay in a hotel?
No. Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for those who use these venues as their main residence, and those requiring the venues where it is ‘reasonably necessary for work or education and training’.
What venues have to stay shut?
The majority of entertainment and tourist venues must close, including:

  • indoor play centres and areas, including trampolining parks and soft play
  • casinos
  • bingo halls
  • bowling alleys
  • skating rinks
  • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
  • laser quests and escape rooms
  • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
  • snooker halls

Can indoor attractions at outdoor venues stay open?
No. Indoor attractions at mostly outdoor entertainment venues must also close, although indoor shops, through-ways and public toilets at such attractions can remain open. 
This includes indoor attractions within: 

  • zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves
  • aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions
  • model villages
  • museums, galleries and sculpture parks
  • botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses
  • theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs
  • visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes
  • landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms

Can leisure and sports facilities stay open?
Yes, with restrictions. Group exercise classes including fitness and dance should not go ahead. Saunas and steam rooms should also close.
Can I attend a live sports event?
No. There should be no public attendance at spectator sport or indoor performances and large business events should not be taking place. However, elite sport events may continue to take place without spectators.
People walk through Birmingham today, before the region goes into tier three rules next week
Can large outdoor events take place?
No. The likes of performances and shows should not take place, with the exception of drive-in events.
Can I still go to church?
Yes. Places of worship remain open, but you must not attend with or socialise with anyone outside of your household or support bubble while you are there, unless a legal exemption applies
Can a wedding take place? 
Yes. weddings can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees 15 people can attend the ceremonies, and receptions are not allowed.
Can I go to a funeral?
Yes. Thirty people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events
Can organised outdoor sport take place?
Yes. Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue, however ‘higher-risk contact activity should not take place’.
Can indoor sport take place?
No. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes cannot take place indoors. 
There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s.
Can I still travel to places? 
Yes. 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’.
Can I go on holiday to other parts of Britain?
No. You should ‘avoid travelling to other parts of the UK’, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. However, you can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.
Can I go abroad?
Yes, with restrictions. For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list. 
What areas are in tier three?
Here is a full list of the areas in tier three, according to the Government website. 
Are there exemptions from gatherings limits in all tiers?
Yes, the following exemptions to the ‘rule of six’ apply below: 

  • as part of a single household, or a support bubble
  • for work or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes
  • for childcare, education or training meaning education and training provided as part of a formal curriculum
  • for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups
  • for formal support groups, and parent and child groups up to 15 people aged 5 and older
  • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
  • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
  • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
  • for birth partners
  • to attend a funeral with no more than 30 people present or a commemorative event such as a wake for someone who has died with no more than 15 people present
  • to see someone who is terminally ill or at the end of life
  • to attend a wedding or civil partnership with no more than 15 people present
  • to provide emergency assistance
  • to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
  • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
  • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable or to provide respite for a carer
  • to facilitate moving home

As Britons plan their festive travel and look forward to spending time with their families after months apart, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas for many.
But questions remain over how busy trains will be and whether the roads will be jammed over the period when three households can bubble next month. 
People will be travelling across the country to be with their loved ones from December 23 to 27, with many having to decide which side of the family to visit.
And the roads and rails are therefore likely to be congested amid concerns of overcrowding and huge queues if everyone hits the network at the same time. 
The Department for Transport has appointed a Christmas travel tsar who will scrutinise whether rail, air and road networks are prepared for the surge in travel.
Meanwhile new guidance on Santa’s Grottos, carol singing and nativity plays has also revealed what to expect in the run up to Christmas in the coming weeks.
Here, MailOnline looks at the key questions from Christmas carols to train tickets, and from roadworks to Christmas bubbles: 
Will carol singers be allowed this year?
Yes. Door-to-door carol singing can happen, but only in groups of six and while keeping at least two metres away from ‘the threshold of any dwellings’.
Participants are also expected to follow social distancing by staying at least two metres apart from anyone who is not from the same household.
Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, said the news that people can come together to sing outdoors over the festive season ‘will bring comfort and joy to many’.
This type of carol singing will not be allowed – participants must stand at least two metres from each other in groups of up to six. They must also stand at least two metres away from homes
Can you sing carols in church?
No, unless you are in a choir. Government guidance, published on Sunday to cover the Christmas period, allows indoor singing when England’s national lockdown ends on Wednesday, but only by choirs and with no audience participation.
Indoor singing by professional and amateur choirs can take place according to the particular area’s tier, but audiences or congregations are not to join in ‘any activity that can create aerosols, including singing, shouting and chanting’.
Those activities are known to increase the risk of virus transmission. For indoor choirs, the maximum number of people present ‘should take into account the area of the space and the requirement to maintain two-metre social distancing at all times’. 
Will normal church services resume again? 
Yes. Church services can take place again in all tiers from Wednesday. During the latest lockdown, places of worship have only been allowed to host private prayer. 
Can school nativity plans happen?
Yes, with restrictions. School nativity plays will be allowed to go ahead ‘within existing school bubbles’ and avoiding any mixing across groups.
Audiences will only be allowed to attend in Tier 1 and 2 areas – subject to ‘appropriate safeguards’. In Tier 3, schools are advised to use live-streaming or record the shows.
Santa Claus speaks to two-year-old Leo via live video stream in a UK virtual grotto experience
Can you take your child to a Santa’s grotto?
Yes. Santa’s grottos can open in all tiers – so long as they are in venues which are allowed to open and put in place Covid secure measures such as social distancing.
For people hoping to get in the festive mood by attending a Christmas market, the Government advises they must check the rules according to their tier.
It states: ‘The rules might be different for indoor shops and open air shops, such as Christmas markets or Christmas tree markets.’
Can I book tickets in advance?
Yes. Rail passengers are being urged to book ahead now amid fears of overcrowding with closures of some key stations and lines adding to the potential chaos.
When will trains be busiest? 
The crunch times could be around December 23 and 27, which are the start and end dates of the period when three households can bubble together for Christmas.
More than two million people normally travel by train in the week between December 25 and the first week of January, putting a significant strain on the system. 
Are tickets getting booked up?
Yes. For example, the cheapest LNER single on the morning of December 23 from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh is £74, but some trains are already sold out.
Those travelling from London Euston to Manchester on Avanti West Coast that morning can get a single for £30 if before 7am, but the price rises to £85 by 9.30am.
Some trains from Euston to Birmingham are already sold out, but more tickets will soon become available – and the Chiltern route from Marylebone is as little as £6.40.
On the same morning travelling from London Paddington to Cardiff the cheapest Great Western Railway single is £35.40, with decent availability on most trains.
Do you have to book an advance ticket?
Yes, but only on some lines. LNER, which runs from London King’s Cross to Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle, will only allow people to travel with a seat reservation.
Passengers wait for a train at London Waterloo railway station on Christmas Eve in 2013
Could tickets drop in price?
Yes. Operators have said more advance tickets will soon be available, and the Rail Delivery Group has advised people to keep checking and sign up for notifications.
Avanti West Coast, which runs trains from London Euston to Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, is releasing more advance fares from tomorrow (December 1).
Are advance tickets being released later than normal?
Yes. Cheaper advance tickets are normally available 12 weeks in advance, but operators say they have been delayed due to short-notice timetable changes.
Are there ways to make your fare cheaper?
Yes. Consider whether you are eligible for a railcard such as a 16-25, 26-30, Two Together, Senior, Disabled, Family and Friends, Network or Veterans for a third off.
Also look at whether it is cheaper to ‘split’ tickets on the route that is to split your journey route into different sections and buy individual tickets for the same journey.
This is a legal method as long as the train calls at each of the stations on your tickets. For example, if travelling from London to Newcastle and the train stops at York, you could split the fare by buying a single from London to York, and York to Newcastle.
You could also consider whether it is cheaper to travel at unusual times such as before the morning rush hour or late at night, when fares tend to be much cheaper. 
Are peak fares being suspended?
Yes, on some routes. Avanti is suspending peak fares between December 18 and 31, meaning a London to Manchester flexible peak fare will be £64.40 instead of £180.
Labour and Transport Focus are calling for a temporary suspension of peak fares across all lines in the UK as part of a wider package to help people travel safely.
Will there be Christmas engineering works too?
Yes. Most of the network has now been cleared of engineering works, but there will still be some closures taking place from December 23 to January 4.
King’s Cross will be shut for six days from Christmas Day, while there will also be a reduced service between Clapham Junction and Waterloo from Boxing Day.
LNER, which uses King’s Cross station for the East Coast Main Line, has warned that alternative routes will be ‘very busy and should also be avoided’. 
LNER has issued the above timetable for when people cannot travel to and from King’s Cross 
Will trains run on Christmas Day?
No. There will be no train services running on Christmas Day, as is standard each year. However there will be some coach services running (see below).
Will trains run on Boxing Day?
Mostly no, with some exceptions. Only limited services will operate. There will be no services at London King’s Cross, Euston, Liverpool Street, Waterloo or St Pancras. 
There will be no c2c, LNER, London Northwestern, South Western, East Midlands, Great Western, West Midlands, CrossCounty, TransPennine Express or Thameslink.
However, there will be Stansted Express services but only from Tottenham Hale every half-hour. The Heathrow Express will also run to and from London Paddington.
Are the Tubes running over Christmas?
Yes, but not on Christmas Day. The London Underground will operate a Saturday service on Christmas Eve, which will be reduced at 8pm and finish at Sunday times.
On Boxing Day, reduced services start from 7am, but there will be no service on sections of the Piccadilly and District lines and much of the London Overground.
Are trains running over the New Year’s period?
Yes. New Year’s Eve trains will be operating on most lines, but the last train may be earlier than usual. Trains on New Year’s Day may start running slightly later too.
Are coach operators increasing their services?
Yes. Coaches will have a role to play in moving people around the country because trains are likely to struggle with demand.
National Express said it will increase its services after seeing a ‘significant’ increase in website traffic after the Government announced its Christmas bubble rules.
But it added that this is still a reduced service with this year’s timetable for Christmas Day covering only around half of the locations compared with last year.
Megabus said it had seen a rise in bookings in recent days with demand expected to grow more, with extra seats put on to help the university exodus from this Thursday.
Will coaches run on Christmas Day?
Yes. Both National Express and Megabus will have services on Christmas Day.
Are tickets cheaper than the train?
Yes, in many cases. The cheapest National Express ticket from London to Newcastle on the morning of December 23 is £38.80. The cheapest train ticket on LNER is £71.
From London to Cardiff it is £28 on the coach, or £35.40 on the train. However London to Birmingham is £22 on the coach, but just £6.40 on the train with Chiltern.
Have ticket restrictions been relaxed?
Yes. National Express have changed terms and conditions on restricted tickets so customers can now get one free change. They can get a refund on a standard ticket.
The National Express route map shows where the operator runs coach services across Britain
Will the roads be busy?
Yes. The roads are expected to be busy over the Christmas period as many people shun public transport over fears of catching Covid-19 on overcrowded trains.
To enable to rush to the roads, there are likely to be fewer roadworks than normal with 500 miles of them cleared on motorways and A-roads to ease congestion.
The RAC has said its breakdown team expects the roads to be busy during the five-day period of December 23 to 27, but it is still unsure quite how busy they will be. 
Will roadworks be lifted for longer than the five-day period?
Yes. Highways England has said the ‘current plan’ is to remove ‘non-essential’ roadworks from December 20 this year to January 4 next year.
Are there doubts over how congested it will be?
Yes. The AA has said it is not ‘overly concerned’ about traffic congestion, with a poll finding two-fifths of drivers had already cancelled festive travel plans.
Does the Congestion Charge operate on Christmas Day?
No, the Central London Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone do not operate on Christmas Day only. But they are back in operation from Boxing Day.
Are UK flights running over Christmas?
Yes. EasyJet has already seen a 200 per cent surge in flight and holiday searches in the days after the Government’s announcement on Christmas bubbles last week.
The most popular routes included London and Bristol to Belfast, and London to Edinburgh, with the carrier saying it has increased seats on some of its UK routes.
EasyJet will still be running only a fifth of its normal flight schedule over this winter, with other airlines such as Ryanair and British Airways also reducing timetables.
BA has also seen in increasing in people searching for flights and holidays on its website and has insisted it will put on larger aircraft where possible if needed.
Irish airline Aer Lingus will be operating a ‘much-reduced schedule’ due to a ‘lack of demand’ for air travel, but it has put on extra capacity on the Dublin-Heathrow route.
Are ticket prices expensive?
Yes. The cheapest London to Belfast single on the morning of December 23 is £164 via Stansted with easyJet. The cheapest London-Dublin single is £79 with Ryanair.
The cheapest London to Edinburgh single on the morning of December 23 is £78 from Luton via easyJet – which is roughly the same price as the LNER train that day.
Plans revealed last week to allow people to form a temporary bubble over the festive season were welcome news to families across the country.
But how much do we know about what is being proposed? Here, are some key questions based on information released by the Cabinet Office for England:
What is a Christmas bubble and when can I join one?
People will be allowed to form an exclusive Christmas bubble made up of people from no more than three households between December 23 and 27.
This rule applies across the whole of the UK.
Christmas bubbles can only meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces.
Can I be in more than one Christmas bubble?
No. Christmas bubbles will be fixed for the period they are permitted.
You are also not allowed to change your Christmas bubble once it is formed.
Is there a limit to how many people can be in a Christmas bubble?
The Cabinet Office guidance only stipulates that the bubble should not include people from more than three households.
However, it highlights that the more people someone sees, the more likely they are to catch or spread Covid-19, and asks the public to be mindful of risks before agreeing to form a bubble.
The Scottish Government said people should keep the numbers within a bubble as low as possible and minimise the length of contact between different households in the bubble.
Will we have to social distance within Christmas bubbles?
Social distancing will not be necessary in bubbles, but people will be advised to exercise restraint and judgment if they plan to mix with vulnerable friends or family.
It means friends and family will have the chance to hug for the first time in months.
What happens if I’m self-isolating?
If you have Covid symptoms or are required to self-isolate then you must not join a Christmas bubble.
If someone in a Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops symptoms between December 23 and 27, or up to 48 hours after the bubble last met, then all bubble members must self-isolate.
Can I be in a different Christmas bubble from people I normally live with?
Cabinet Office guidance says you can choose to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally.
To prevent virus transmission within your normal household and between bubbles, people should try to stay with another member of their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27 where possible.
Extra precautions such as cleaning surfaces and door handles and letting in fresh air after someone has visited your household are also advised.
However, the Scottish Government has said that ‘different people in a household should not pick their own bubble’. 
Can I still meet people outside of my Christmas bubble?
You will be able to meet people not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.
The tier system of restrictions applies to England, with rules in other parts of the UK varying.
Can I stay overnight with my Christmas bubble?
Yes. If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes and stay overnight, including in private rented accommodation.
Can I travel through different areas and across borders to join a Christmas bubble?
Yes. You are allowed to travel between England’s tiers and the four nations of the UK to meet your Christmas bubble.
When am I allowed to travel to and from my Christmas bubble?
You should only travel to meet your bubble and return home between December 23 and 27.
For those heading to or from Northern Ireland, they may travel on December 22 and 28 December, but should only meet their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27.
Travel outside these periods is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example if your are required to self-isolate.
People are advised to avoid unnecessary stops on their journey and not to share a car with people not in their household.
If crossing borders, travellers should read the local coronavirus guidance as different rules may apply.
Does my support bubble count as one household still?
According to the Cabinet Office, existing support bubbles will count as one household contributing to the three household Christmas bubble limit.
A support bubble in England is defined as a support network between a single adult household, or a one adult household with one or more people aged under 18 on June 12, and one other household of any size.
Rules on household bubbles are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with full Christmas guidance still pending from those nations.
Can childcare bubbles continue?
In England, a childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to children aged 13 or under.
Between December 23 and 27 you can continue to use a childcare bubble but ‘only if reasonably necessary’ and ‘where there are no reasonable alternatives’, Cabinet Office guidance states.
If meeting socially during this period, the two households should form a Christmas bubble, with one further household permitted to join the grouping.
Again, guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may differ.
What happens to children whose parents are separated?
Children who are aged under 18 can be part of both their parents’ Christmas bubbles if the adults do not live together and separate groupings are formed.
Nobody else is allowed to be in two bubbles.
Can care home residents join Christmas bubbles?
In England, visits outside of care homes should only be considered for residents ‘of working age’.
A care home resident that is allowed to leave, subject to a home’s agreement and individual risk assessments, may form a bubble with one other household only and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.
If a care home resident does join a household for Christmas they should maintain social distance and take steps to minimise risks.
Can students returning from university join Christmas bubbles?
Students heading home for the holidays will be considered part of the household they return to.
Can I form a Christmas bubble if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?
Yes, but people are warned this involves greater risks.
If someone decides to join a bubble they should take extra precautions, while others within the group should be extra vigilant in the days before getting together.
Can my bubble have Christmas dinner together at the pub?
No. Under the rules Christmas bubbles cannot meet up at indoor settings such as pubs, hotels, retail businesses, theatres or restaurants.
In England, rules on who you can and cannot meet will still depend on which tier of restrictions a venue is in.
Should I follow the rules of the tier I travel to or the tier I’ve come from when forming my Christmas bubble?
In England, if travelling to join your bubble you should follow the tier rules of your destination.
In Scotland, you must stay with your bubble where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in.
For example, people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area.
Can I stay in a hotel during Christmas?
In England, you can stay in a hotel during the Christmas period, including in a tier three area, but only on your own or with members of your household.
How will the Christmas rules be enforced?
No specific details have been released over how authorities might enforce the newly announced rules during the festive period.
Will we face tougher restrictions in January to make up for this?
We do not yet know. It has been speculated that a further circuit-breaker might be needed in January or February if transmission rates rise during Christmas.
The Prime Minister has urged families to still be ‘jolly careful’, warning against ‘a big blowout Christmas’ that could risk another lockdown in January.
Now you CAN hug your granny: Ministers REVERSE ban on hugging elderly loved ones in care homes this Christmas as they roll out rapid coronavirus tests 
Care home residents will finally be able to hug their families again, ministers announced last night.
A national roll-out of rapid tests means relatives who are free of Covid will be allowed visits for the first time since March.
Each care home resident will be able to nominate two loved ones to see them twice a week, regardless of which coronavirus tier they are in.
More than a million testing kits have already been sent out to almost 400 large care homes and the first visits can take place today.
The announcement is a major victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign for families to be reunited by Christmas.
‘This is a game-changing moment for visits,’ said Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum.
‘It will be embraced across the country by care home residents, their loved ones and providers.’
Guidelines issued by the Department of Health last night say the ‘default position’ is visits should go ahead in all tiers unless there is a coronavirus outbreak in the care home.
Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans, causing some elderly to ‘give up on life’. 
Care home visits have been tightly regulated all year to try and reduce the risk of people spreading Covid-19 in the homes, where residents are extremely vulnerable to the disease (Pictured: A woman visits her step-father at a home in Falmouth, Cornwall last week)
But in a major shift in policy, Matt Hancock declared all residents will be allowed face-to-face indoor visits by Christmas. The Health Secretary said: ‘I know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long. The separation has been painful but has protected residents and staff from this deadly virus.
‘I’m so pleased we are now able to help reunite families and more safely allow people to have meaningful contact with their loved ones by Christmas.’
The rapid tests will be delivered to all the country’s 16,000 care homes over the course of the month. On arrival, visitors will receive a lateral flow test, which gives highly-accurate results within 30 minutes.
A negative result means they will be allowed indoors and can hold hands or hug their loved one as long as they are wearing PPE.
Over the past three weeks, the Mail’s Christmas campaign has drawn attention to the catastrophic impact of visiting bans on the mental and physical health of residents.
Tens of thousands of the vulnerable and elderly have been forced to die alone, robbed of a last loving hug from their families.
Caroline Abrahams of the charity Age UK said: ‘The Daily Mail’s campaign has highlighted an issue that means everything to hundreds of thousands of older people and their families, and it’s clear it has successfully moved many hearts, as well as minds.
‘It’s really good news that the Government has significantly shifted its position on visiting and we sincerely hope that their new guidance, plus the additional practical support they are offering to care homes, will lead to many families being reunited with their loved ones after an awfully long time.’
Campaign group Rights for Residents said last night: ‘There is no longer an excuse to keep families locked out.’
The Department of Health said it would issue an extra 46million items of PPE, such as face masks and gowns, to care homes for visitors to wear. They said families should minimise contact to cut the risk of transmission.
Fiona Carragher, a director at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Hugs, a smile from a familiar face, holding hands, feeling joy again these are hugely important, as is the essential care that family carers provide to people with dementia. Quite literally keeping people alive and tethered to the world.
‘We pass on our massive thanks to the Daily Mail for amplifying this absolutely tragic issue. With such a harrowing year, this news of a more joyful Christmas has never been more needed.’
Martin Green of Care England, which represents care providers, warned that homes still faced a ‘huge administrative and logistical burden’ in order to allow visits before Christmas. He criticised the Government for failing to allow provision for the extra staffing that may be required.
Most of the country’s 410,000 care residents have been allowed to see relatives only through prison-style screens and windows. Other homes have imposed blanket bans. Pictured, Dave Stallard at his care home in West Sussex being visited by his wife Irene
He added: ‘There seems to be no understanding that this puts a huge administrative and logistical burdens on care providers.
‘There is all this extra work being put on people and somehow they think there is a bottomless pit of resources available to deal with all these things.’
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said care homes faced a ‘mammoth task’ to allow family visits before Christmas and many relatives were likely to lose out.
He said: ‘How we are going to get everybody through by appointment to see their loved ones before Christmas is a big challenge for us. We want the visiting to happen, there is no question about that.
‘But I wish the Government had said ‘we will do our best to do this asap’ rather than before Christmas because logistically I don’t know how we can get everybody through safely in the time we have got left before Christmas.
‘My big fear is homes could be blamed for not doing it. It is not our fault. We want this to happen but we haven’t got the tests yet and there is a lot to get through.
‘It seems like the Government has placed us in the firing line if it goes wrong.’ 
Boris Johnson’s post-lockdown tiers come into force despite biggest-ever Tory rebellion against him as 55 of his backbenchers vote against his plans putting prospect of future lockdowns in jeopardy 
By James Tapsfield, political editor for MailOnline
Boris Johnson got his brutal post-lockdown tiers approved by the Commons last night thanks to Sir Keir Starmer’s tacit support after suffering the biggest Tory revolt of this Parliament as more than 50 Tories defied the whip. 
The new three-tier system was signed off by a margin of 291 to 78 and came into force at midnight after Labour opted to abstain, despite complaining the regime was not tough enough and there was not enough support for hospitality firms which have been crippled by government shutdowns.    
While the headline 213 majority was healthy, the rebellion of 55 Tories including Julian Lewis, who is suspended made the uprising the biggest of this Parliament yet, after 44 previously went against the pubs curfew. 
Another 17 appear to have abstained, though it is not clear how many were given permission to stay away. Sir Keir also suffered his own revolt, with 15 defying the whip, alongside Jeremy Corbyn and eight DUP politicians. 
Though the Labour move guaranteed No10 victory, it left Mr Johnson exposed to the anger of his own benches. Had all the opposition parties voted against the Government, the PM would have easily been defeated.
The rebellion may have permanently dashed the possibility of using blanket shutdowns to suppress the virus in the future, and is likely to have set off alarm bells in No10 as the premier’s authority continues to wane. 
But Dominic Raab attempted to brush aside suggestions that the Government was worried about the scale of the revolt despite Mr Johnson personally begging dozens of Tories to fall into line as they went through the Noe lobby.
The Foreign Secretary instead took aim at Labour for abstaining from the crunch vote, saying tonight: ‘We listened to MPs on all sides of the House, we passed this vote with a majority of over 200. 
Mr Johnson faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, including from 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady (pictured)
Tory council launches legal challenge against Tier 3 decision 
A Tory-led  local authority is challenging the Government’s decision to put it into Tier 3 after the current lockdown restrictions end.
Stratford-on-Avon District Council  said it had sent a judicial review pre-action letter to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Stratford is the constiruency of Nadhim Zahawi, the newly appointed minister in charge of rolling out the Covid vaccines. 
Tony Jefferson, leader of the council, said: ‘This is not an action we take lightly, however none of the data we see warrants Stratford-on-Avon District being placed in Tier 3. It is very disappointing that the Government did not use much greater granularity in deciding on tiers.
‘I know that they have looked at a number of factors including the rates in all age groups, particularly older people who are more vulnerable to the virus; and we have to take into consideration the pressure on our local hospitals and NHS services.
‘However, none of the metrics for our district warrant it being placed in Tier 3. The decision to put Stratford district in Tier 3 therefore appears arbitrary and irrational.’ 
‘The most striking thing about these numbers is that the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer abstained on the biggest issue facing this country today as we go through this pandemic and he’s got nothing to say about it, no leadership, he doesn’t know what he thinks or what the country should do.’   
The day was spent desperately trying to peel off opponents, with the premier hinting that many low-infection areas could by brought out of the toughest tiers at the next review on December 16.  
He also offered a ‘one-off’ payment of £1,000 to ‘wet’ pubs that do not serve food this month as recognition of ‘how hard they’ve been hit by this virus’. In a last-gasp Zoom call with mutinous Tories before the division, Mr Johnson warned they must not be like children in the back of a car saying ‘are we nearly there yet?’
Winding up the debate, Health Secretary Matt Hancock choked back tears as he referred to the death of his step grandfather from Covid in Liverpool last month, and warned the government could not ease off the restrictions too much. ‘We’ve got to beat this, we’ve got to beat it together,’ he pleaded.
Earlier, MPs lined up in the House to slam the Government plans despite the PM urging them to back his ‘compelling’ case for his new post-lockdown tiers.Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price summed up the feeling for many by storming: ‘These decisions are being taken really on the back of a fag packet but are destroying whole swathes of the hospitality industry.’ 
The strength of feeling among critical backbenchers even led typically backbenchers to defy the PM, with former cabinet minister Jeremy Wright voting against the Government ‘for the first time in 10 years’. There had been talk of up to 100 Conservatives ready to rebel but this afternoon the numbers were whittled down to an extent.   
A government spokesman said: ‘We welcome tonight’s vote which endorses our Winter Plan, brings an end to the national restrictions and returns England to a tiered system.
‘This will help to safeguard the gains made during the past month and keep the virus under control. We will continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days.’
Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories, urged the government to ‘take on board’ the criticism. ‘We very much regret that in a moment of national crisis so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures that the government was proposing,’ the former chief whip said.  
Who are the Tory MPs who defied Boris Johnson and voted against the tier system? 
Some 53 Conservative MPs defied Boris Johnson and voted against the Prime Minister’s new coronavirus tier system. 
They are:  
Adam Afriyie (Windsor)
Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield)
Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West)
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)
Paul Bristow (Peterborough)
Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells)
James Daly (Bury North)
Philip Davies (Shipley)
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) 
Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) 
Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock)
Richard Drax (South Dorset)
Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)
Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) 
Marcus Fysh (Yeovil)
Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) 
Chris Green (Bolton West)
Damian Green (Ashford)
Kate Griffiths (Burton)
Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) 
Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
David Jones (Clwyd West) 
Julian Knight (Solihull)
Robert Largan (High Peak) 
Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) 
Chris Loder (West Dorset) 
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)
Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet)
Anthony Mangnall (Totnes)
Karl McCartney (Lincoln) 
Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) 
Esther McVey (Tatton) 
Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle)
Robbie Moore (Keighley)
Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)  
Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) 
Mark Pawsey (Rugby) 
John Redwood (Wokingham)
Mary Robinson (Cheadle) 
Andrew Rosindell (Romford) 
Henry Smith (Crawley)
Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge)  
Desmond Swayne (New Forest West)
Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)
Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) 
Matt Vickers (Stockton South)
Christian Wakeford (Bury South)
Charles Walker (Broxbourne)
Jamie Wallis (Bridgend)
David Warburton (Conservative – Somerton and Frome) 
William Wragg (Conservative – Hazel Grove)
Jeremy Wright (Conservative – Kenilworth and Southam)
A further two Tory MPs, Steve Baker and Robert Syms, acted as tellers for those MPs voting against the measures.   
The vote means most areas of England will now go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers, with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector. 
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions. 
As he wooed his restive party earlier, Mr Johnson insisted that the government will be ‘sensitive’ to local situations – hinting that areas with low infection rates will not be lumped together in future with other nearby hotspots. 
He said the next review on December 16 will be conducted based on ‘as much granular detail as we can’. ‘We will try to be a sensitive as possible to local effort and local achievement,’ he said.
MP said whips were working hard during the day assuring Conservatives with constituencies in high tiers that they will be downgraded within weeks, while London Tories were pushing for a private commitment that the city will not be upgraded to Tier 3. 
But Sir Keir warned Conservative MPs their hopes of being downgraded will be dashed, as Tier 2 will ‘struggle’ to hold infections down and Mr Johnson always ‘overpromises and under-delivers’. ‘That is not going to happen,’ he swiped. 
The Prime Minister also tried to allay backbench fears for hospitality businesses by announcing that ‘wet’ pubs – which rely on drinks to make their living – will be entitled to £1,000 payments to help them get through this month.   
Many Tories were left livid when ministers finally released an impact assessment of the measures, only to find it did not feature any new detail. Rebel ringleader Mark Harper said the ‘wheels were coming off’ the policy. 
It is understood the government has another dashboard that includes more ‘granular’ information on 40 areas of the economy. Sources dismissed the idea it is ‘secret’, saying it only contains material already ‘publicly available’ – although they insisted it will not be published. 
One angry MP told MailOnline: ‘The reason it won’t be published is because it supports our case not theirs.’  
Laying out his case that there is a ‘compelling’ need for the new regional tiers, Mr Johnson stressed: ‘This is not another lockdown. Nor is this the renewal of existing measures in England.
‘The tiers that I’m proposing would mean that from tomorrow everyone in England, including those in Tier 3, will be free to leave their homes for any reason.
‘And when they do they will find the shops open for Christmas, the hairdressers open, the nail bars open, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools open.’  
Challenged by a series of MPs – including ex-Cabinet minister Greg Clark, who represents Tunbridge Wells – over the harsh treatment their areas were receiving, Mr Johnson said: ‘As we go forward the Government will look at how we can reflect as closely as possible the reality of what is happening on the ground for local people, looking at the incidence of the disease, looking at the human geography and spread of the pandemic, and indeed the progress that areas are making in getting the virus down.
‘We will try to be as sensitive as possible to local effort and to local achievement in bringing the pandemic under control.’
He added: ‘We will look in granular detail at local incidents, look at the human geography of the pandemic and take account of exactly what is happening every two weeks, as I say.’ 
Mr Johnson also took aim at Labour for having ‘no credible plan’ to tackle coronavirus.
He said: ‘We’re trying to look after pubs, restaurants, businesses across this entire country and no-one feels the anguish of those businesses more than this Government.
‘I do think however it is extraordinary that in spite of the barrage of criticism that we have, we have no credible plan from the party opposite, indeed we have no view on the way ahead.
‘It’s a quite extraordinary thing that tonight, to the best of my knowledge, (Sir Keir) who said he’s always going to act in the national interest, has told his party to sit on its hands and to abstain in the vote tonight.’
But despite his pleas, Mr Johnson still faced a series of hostile interventions from his own benches over the draconian restrictions, which will leave 99 per cent of England under the toughest two levels from tomorrow.
Former Brexit minister Steve Baker, one of the rebel leaders, was among those opposing the Government. 
He said he was ‘going to have to vote no tonight to send a message’ to ministers, adding: ‘People like me have not just been looking for economic analysis, we’ve been looking for serious analysis of these harms and benefits from the Government’s policies in the context of coronavirus.’ 
He went on: ‘Here we stand at a profoundly dangerous moment, heading into infringements on our liberties around vaccination and testing which we would never normally tolerate and so therefore I find with huge reluctance, I’m going to have to vote no tonight to send a message to the Government.’ 
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful Tory 1922 commitee, was among those who condemned the tiers plan.
He said the Trafford borough in his Altrincham and Sale constituency had been placed in Tier 3 ‘unfairly’. ‘I believe the government has not made that compelling case,’ he said. ‘The benefit of the doubt that this House has extended in March and since is harder.’

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