For residents of Scotland, conversations about Covid-19 protection levels have replaced, to some extent, small talk about the weather. This tiered existence has also brought out the competitive side in many people, who will perform impromptu tests of your knowledge of restrictions, local authority areas, and travel options available to your tier.
The glittery silver lining to the grey cloud of the current situation for many people is the hope and expectation that some sort of relaxation will happen over Christmas to allow families and friends to celebrate together.
In England, where a four-week national lockdown replaced a rather controversial regional approach on 5 November, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, will announce today a tougher three-tiered system to safeguard lockdown progress while allowing family get-togethers over the festive period.
Although the new system, which would be introduced at the end of the current lockdown on 2 December, is expected to be stricter than the one in place in October, the UK government is reportedly looking at suspending the tiers between three and five days over Christmas before reimposing them again between January and March.
Other measures being considered include lifting the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants and the roll-out of a programme of mass, instant coronavirus testing in areas of England with the highest infection rates. Gyms and non-essential shops are also expected to be able to reopen in all areas.
Following talks held on Saturday, the UK’s four nations seem to have backed plans to allow households to meet for yuletide celebrations too, with ministers in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland endorsing a “shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”, according to the cabinet office.
Discussions on the details of any such common approach are still ongoing, but an agreement is hoped to be reached later this week. In any event, the public will still be advised to remain cautious, avoid travelling wherever possible, and minimise social contact.
It is no secret that Christmas will be anything but normal this year. Governments are now in the business of gauging whether a temporary rise in infection rates is a price worth paying for the boosts to wellbeing and the national mood – and, yes, their own popularity – that a short break from the slog of the lockdown will provide.
Whether the public – and Tory backbenchers at Westminster, for that matter – will put up with a protracted (and tougher) tier system well into the new year remains to be seen. In the meantime, best keep brushing up on your knowledge of restrictions for all those bumper 2020 quizzes.