As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the UK, new restrictions and local lockdowns continue to be introduced.
In Scotland, new rules on the use of face coverings in the workplace came into force on the 19th October.
Workers are required to wear face coverings in all communal areas, including corridors and canteens.
Restrictions put into place on the 9th October, which saw licenced premises across the central belt limited to selling alcohol outdoors, have been extended by another week.
Originally intended to last for 16 days until the 25th October, these measures will now be up for review on the 2nd November.
In addition, a Scottish tiered system similar to that of England will begin on the 2nd November to coincide with the end of these restrictions, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on the 21st October.
The five-tiered system, ranked from Level Zero to Level Four, consists of near normal, medium, high, very high and lockdown stages.
At Level Zero, indoor meetings with a maximum of eight people from three households and outdoor meetings with up to fifteen people from five households are both permitted.
Six people from two different households can meet indoors and outdoors under Level One, while indoor meetings with other households are not permitted at Level Two, though the rule of six applies outdoors and in hospitality settings. Level Two will also entail closing pubs indoors or other restrictions on opening times.
At Level Three, all pubs will be closed both indoors and outdoors, with some restaurants allowed to remain open under strict conditions.
Level Four or ‘Lockdown’ Level will be close to the full lockdown that the UK entered in March, as non-essential shops and businesses will be required to close.
Currently, the aim is for schools to remain open at all levels.
A three-tiered system, with levels ranked as medium (tier 1), high (tier 2) and very high (tier 3), has already been implemented in England.
Tier 1 requires those meeting indoors or outdoors to follow the rule of six and pubs and restaurants to shut at 10pm. In tier 2, the same rules are in place but mixing of households indoors is not permitted.
Tier 3 – which also allows other rules to be agreed locally – implements guidance on travelling in and out of the area and prevents any household mixing indoors or outdoors, with the rule of six applying to outdoor public spaces such as parks. Pubs and bars that do not serve meals will be closed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new system on the 12th October. Since then, Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough have been moved to tier 2, while Liverpool, Lancashire and Greater Manchester are in tier 3.
The decision to move Greater Manchester to tier 3 as of Friday 23rd comes after days of negotiations between Labour Mayor Andy Burnham and the UK government, with £60m worth of funding to be given as a support package for businesses affected by the new restrictions.
Meanwhile, in Wales, a ‘firebreak’ lockdown will be put into place from the 23rd October to the 9th November.
All pubs, restaurants, hotels, bars and non-essential shops will be closed and people will be instructed to remain at home.
Any mixing of households indoors or outdoors will not be permitted.
The introduction of local lockdowns complicates matters for students who live at university during term-time but may wish to return home to visit during the semester.
Those who normally reside in areas of England that are now under tier 3 restrictions would only be permitted to meet friends and family in a park or another public space, still obeying the rule of six, should they decide to return home.
Welsh students studying elsewhere in the UK would either have to travel home before lockdown rules officially go into place and remain there for the duration or stay at university until restrictions are lifted.
Lockdowns and restrictions also continue to place strain on businesses throughout the UK, many of which will be forced to close in tier 3 areas.
The Job Support Scheme (JSS), which will replace furlough in November, will pay up to 50 per cent of wages for those affected by Covid-19 restrictions, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on October 22nd.
Under the furlough scheme, employers paid 20 per cent of wages and the government 60 per cent, with a loss of 20 per cent.
Under JSS for tier 3 businesses, the government will pay 67 per cent of wages, with pay falling by 33 per cent.
All other businesses affected by restrictions will be subject to the part-time JSS: employers pay 4 per cent of wages, employees work for at least 20 per cent and the government subsidises 49 per cent, with pay falling by 27 per cent.
Image: NurseTogether via Wikipedia