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Explainer: What are England's new Covid-19 restrictions, and how do they compare to Ireland?

The new restrictions are expected to become law on Wednesday.

Image: PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has announced a new strategy of local lockdown measures for England as part of attempts to curb rising Covid-19 rates.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons today that the measures would “simplify and standardise” local lockdown rules.

He also told MPs that the coming weeks and months would “test the mettle” of the country as it faced a second wave of the coronavirus.

The new system is expected to come into effect on Wednesday, when parts of the country will be split into three different alert levels.

Here’s what the measures will look like, and how they compare to Ireland’s system.

Three-tier system

England’s new system will be based on three different levels: medium, high and very high.

Areas classified as ‘medium’ from Wednesday will be subject to the same measures which currently apply across the country.

These include the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.

At the ‘high’ alert level, household mixing will be banned indoors, although support bubbles will still be permitted and groups of six will be allowed to meet outdoors.

Johnson told MPs that areas which are already subject to local restrictions will move to this level, as will Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire and parts of High Peak.

Greater Manchester will also move into this level, according to local MPs and the region’s mayor.

MPs were briefed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday that the city’s ten boroughs will operate under measures similar to those in place now.

Pubs serving food will be permitted to stay open, but households will be banned from mixing indoors.

At the ‘very high’ alert level, social mixing will be banned both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars will be told to close unless they can operate as a restaurant.

As in Ireland, pubs which operate as restaurants will have to serve ‘substantial’ meals. 

Local leaders will help to determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos, in very high alert level areas.

People will also be advised against travel in and out of these areas.

Those that will move into this level include the Liverpool City Region, which faces the toughest restrictions.

MPs will debate and vote on the measures on Tuesday and measures will be kept under review after they come into effect, with a four-week sunset clause for areas facing the toughest restrictions.

No lockdown provisions

The new restrictions are notable for not containing any provision for another lockdown in local regions.

Johnson made no mention of more stringent measures in the House of Commons and specifically stated that he did not want to impose another national lockdown.

“There are those who say that… we should go back into a full national lockdown of indefinite duration, closing schools and businesses, telling people again to stay at home as we did in March., once again shattering our lives and our society,” he said.

“I do not believe that would be the right course.”

Under the most severe ‘very high’ category, shops, restaurants, and pubs that serve food will instead be allowed to remain open – though they may be advised to close depending on the situation in certain regions.

This is mostly in contrast to the most severe restrictions in Ireland, Level 5.

Although there will also be no full lockdown in Ireland at Level 5, pubs and restaurants can only offer take away food or delivery and only essential retailers can remain open. It is also not known whether schools will remain open if Ireland gets to this level.

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Meanwhile, residents in England could be told to avoid all non-essential travel and remain in their area under ‘very high’ restrictions. But this has not been officially announced yet.

In Ireland, everyone but essential workers will have to work from home under Level 5 and people will only be able to travel 5km from their homes.

There is no such distance limit in England, beyond county boundaries similar to those currently in place under Level 3 in Ireland. 

However, there are some similarities between the two countries.

In both countries, gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools will all have to close under the most severe restrictions. Likewise, all indoor and outdoor social visits will banned.

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