When is the next lockdown review? Date Boris Johnson could announce changes to England restrictions - and if rules could get tougher
Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new rules for England to follow during a third national lockdown
As Covid infection rates and hospital admissions continue to rise, England's exit from a third national lockdown appears some way off.
Boris Johnson instructed another stay at home order on Monday 4 January, which saw non-essential shops close and schools shut to everyone except a select few pupils.
The Prime Minister's request was enshrined into law on Wednesday 6 January following an MP vote on restrictions to help ease the mounting pressures on the NHS.
Experts have said it will take time for the new restrictions to take effect, but when will they be reviewed, could the PM tighten rules and how long can the national lockdown last this time?
When is the lockdown review?
Mr Johnson, in his address to MPs on Wednesday 6 January, said the restrictions would be under continuous review, with a statutory requirement every two weeks.
He said: “These restrictions will be kept under continuous review with a statutory requirement to review every two weeks and a legal obligation to remove them if they are no longer deemed necessary to limit the transmission of the virus.”
This would suggest that the first statutory required review would take place two weeks after the restrictions were legalised, on Wednesday 20 January.
This is a similar system to the one that the government adopted when it reviewed the four-tier local alert system, though changes were regularly made as Covid cases continued to rise.
The initial lockdown, implemented in March 2020, saw restrictions reviewed every three weeks.
Could Boris Johnson tighten lockdown restrictions?
Mr Johnson has warned coronavirus restrictions could be tightened if people flout the rules, in the fight to reduce the spread of the virus.
Under the guidance, everyone is instructed to stay at home unless there is a reasonable excuse to leave for matters such as work, food shopping or daily exercise.
Exercise is restricted to your local area - yet to be defined - and can be done with your household, support bubble, or one other person.
Schools have been closed to the vast majority of pupils, with only vulnerable pupils or children of critical workers allowed, while non-essential businesses have been forced to shut.
Pubs and restaurants are closed but takeaway services are allowed, household mixing indoors or outdoors is not permitted except for childcare or support bubbles.
Further restrictions could see the closure or nurseries, shutting parks, limiting daily exercise time, and taking away the option to exercise with one other person not in your household - similar to the rules of the first lockdown.
Meanwhile, reports suggest the government is considering upscaling the two-metre / one-metre plus social distancing rule to three metres, and the wearing of face masks in busy outdoor settings such as supermarket queues, as well as indoors.
When will lockdown end?
When Mr Johnson addressed the nation on Monday 4 January he hinted that the restrictions could be eased by the middle of February, if cases and hospital admissions drop significantly.
“By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation,” he said.
The PM also indicated that, if the national situation improves, schools could reopen after the February half term, as the country “cautiously” moves down the regional tiers.
Yet the national lockdown restrictions, overwhelmingly voted into law by MPs two days later, legally run from Wednesday 6 January to Wednesday 31 March.
He told MPs: “As was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.
“That is why the legislation this House will vote on later today runs until 31 March.
“Not because we expect the full national lockdown to continue until then, but to allow a steady, controlled and evidence-led move down through the tiers on a regional basis – carefully, brick by brick, as it were, breaking free of our confinement but without risking the hard won gains that our protections have given us.”