Vaccine approved as national lockdown ends + NUMBERS + TIERS + CORRIDORS

A major breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19 has been achieved with the approval for use in the UK of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Welcoming the news, CBI president, Lord Karan Bilimoria, said: “The approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine represents a major breakthrough in our fightback against COVID-19. All parties deserve real credit for getting through the UK’s rigorous approvals process at speed – making it the first country in the world to hit that important milestone. After the loss of so many lives and livelihoods, it really does feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“Given the vaccine rollout will take time, three things are needed now to shore up confidence. Mass, rapid testing must be rolled out as far and wide as possible from the community to workplaces. Meanwhile, to protect people’s jobs, firms need clarity about the level of support through to March and beyond, along with transparent trigger points for exiting higher tiers and a robust, evidence-based approach for ongoing restrictions.”

This important breakthrough comes on the same day as the UK’s national lockdown is lifted, giving many businesses the green light after a month of closure, and making way for the three tier-based system: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know

Despite today's exceptionally good news, the Government is at pains to point out that COVID-19 continues to pose a very real threat to the UK. Its COVID-19 Winter Plan, published last week stresses the importance for those that can of continuing to work from home.

“SAGE advice is that typically over one third of contacts are made at work, that these are often of long duration and highly clustered and that homeworking can have a significant effect on reducing transmission if all those who can work from home do so,” the document states.

“The Government encourages employers to enable a greater degree of home working, and will strengthen guidance to be very clear that anyone who can work from home should do so. The Government recognises that there are specific reasons why attendance in the workplace may be needed, including mental health issues or concerns; and / or a need to work on-site physically. In industries and sectors where working from home is not possible, including, for example, in much of the construction and manufacturing sectors, and where people’s jobs necessitate working in other people’s homes, businesses have taken clear steps to protect the health and safety of staff and customers through following Government guidance, making their workplaces COVID-secure, enabling staff to observe hands, face, space and adopting behaviours that will reduce transmission. In circumstances such as these, people should continue going to work.”

The 64-page document also notes that while the vast majority of businesses are operating within the rules and have gone to enormous lengths to ensure they are COVID-secure, a small number of businesses are not complying with the law and are continuing to operate in an unsafe way.

Travel corridors

Travel guidance has also been updated today to reflect the latest tier-based COVID-19 rules.

The approach to international travel corridors remains the same, with Estonia and Latvia the two countries most recently removed from the exempt list at the weekend. The live list is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors

COVID-19 in numbers

The number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK is falling, with 13,430 reported to have tested positive in the 24 hours to 1st December, and 603 deaths reported over the same period, according to data published by the UK Government.

Globally, as of 12:15 CET today, 63,144,362 confirmed cases have been reported to the World Health Organisation, including 1,469,237 deaths.

Which tier is your business in?

This page sets out the full list of local restriction tiers by area: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/full-list-of-local-restriction-tiers-by-area

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