The month-long lockdown will be lifted as scheduled on Dec. 2, and the government plans to return to using the three-tiered system of localised restrictions, a spokeswoman for 10 Downing Street said on Saturday evening.
“The Prime Minister and his scientific advisors are clear the virus is still present—and without regional restrictions it could quickly run out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect,” said the spokeswoman.
“That would put in jeopardy the progress the country has made, and once again risk intolerable pressure on the NHS (National Health Service).”
The prime minister is scheduled to hold discussions with the cabinet on Sunday and present the new COVID Winter Plan to Parliament on Monday, the spokeswoman said.
Prior to the latest lockdown, a three-tiered system of restrictions had been put in place in England. The three tiers are medium, high, and very high, categorised by the infection rates of the areas.
The toughest measures were imposed in northern England, where movement was limited and pubs were forced to close unless they sold substantial meals.
After the lockdown is lifted on Dec. 2, more areas are expected to be placed into the higher restriction tiers. Ministers will announce which areas will be placed into which tier on Thursday, with lawmakers able to vote on the system before it comes into force. The tiers will be reviewed.
Johnson’s office also confirmed plans to begin a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme next month, assuming regulators approve a vaccine against the virus. The government will also increase mass testing in an effort to suppress the virus until vaccines can be rolled out.
During the lockdown, all “non-essential” shops and hospitality were told to close for a month, though schools, colleges, and universities have remained open.
UK businesses have been hit hard by the lockdown measures. One in seven businesses and one in three hospitality businesses in the UK have no or low confidence that they will survive the next three months, according to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday.
Lily Zhou, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.