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UK

Explainer: What is England's new COVID-19 lockdown system?

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new system of lockdown rules on Monday, classifying the risk level in regions to help tackle rising infection rates in parts of England and simplify existing regulations.

People are seen on the street amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Britain, October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Lee Smith

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING THIS?

Two reasons:

1. Because infection rates in parts of England, particularly in the north of the country, are rising fast.

Health officials say data show infections are beginning to move from younger people to more vulnerable older age groups, and will continue to spread further across the country.

2. The existing rules are confusing.

Over the summer, the government has tried to shut down outbreaks by tightening restrictions on an area-by-area basis. That has spawned a patchwork of different rules which ministers say needs simplifying.

WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

The government is announcing three tiers of regulations, each with broadly standardised rules.

Tier One: Medium

Expected to cover a significant part of the country. This is essentially a continuation of the existing rules that apply across the country. The main points are:

- Rule of Six: When seeing friends and family you do not live with you should meet in groups of 6 or less.

- Early hospitality closure: Businesses selling food or drink, indoor leisure centres or facilities, funfairs, theme parks, and bingo halls, must be closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Tier Two: High

Most areas that have already been placed under some form of local lockdown will be put in this category, with the intention of preventing further household-to-household transmission of the virus.

- All mixing between households indoors is prohibited

- The rule of six applies outdoors

Tier Three: Very High

This will apply in the areas of greatest concern, and will define a minimum set of rules:

- Social mixing is prohibited indoors and in private gardens

- Pubs and bars will be told to close.

- Additional measures can be imposed with the agreement of local leaders. These could include closing other sectors such as gyms and casinos.

Schools, universities and non-essential retail will not be closed.

WHO DOES THIS APPLY TO?

England.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own rules, although they have all committed to working together where at all possible.

Reporting by William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper

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