Pedestrian walking past Christmas-themed window displays inside shopping arcade in central London, England.

AFP via Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the one-month lockdown in England will end as planned, but will be replaced by a new three-tier system in regions and towns to account for various degrees of infection. French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce similar easing measures for the Christmas season on Tuesday.

  • Johnson, who is working in isolation after meeting an infected member of Parliament last week, promised again in a video address to Parliament that a program of mass testing for coronavirus would allow differentiated level of restrictions in the weeks to come.

  • Johnson’s “COVID-19 winter plan” will mark a return to a three-tier system of restrictions, from “medium-” to “very high alert,” stricter to that in force before the current lockdown, with restrictions increasing in some towns or regions, depending on the level of infections.

  • “The scientific advice is…that our tiers need to be made tougher,” Johnson said.

  • Regardless of the tiers, shops, gyms, and places of worship will reopen on Dec. 2, and the stay-at-home requirement will end, with travel permitted.

  • Johnson said that even though the public should brace for a hard winter, new vaccine hopes mean that “we have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight.

  • Macron is expected to announce on Tuesday in a televised speech the easing of restrictions, including the reopening of nonessential shops, but restaurants and bars should remain closed, according to Le Monde.

  • “Nothing is worse than uncertainty and the impression of non-ending gloom,” the French president said in a newspaper interview Sunday.

The outlook: Government leaders seem to have learned the lesson of their early-summer mistakes, when the quick end of lockdowns triggered a virus second wave whose strength took them by surprise. All are warning that some form of restrictions will have to remain for a few months more, and take pains to warn their people that now isn’t the time to lower their guard.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca
announcement on Monday that the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford has a high degree of efficacy added to the list of good news on the health front.

But governments know that excessive optimism might trigger relaxed behavior that could in turn cause a third wave of the pandemic early next year, with the associated debilitating economic consequences and fiscal cost. For now, they are just trying to allow a Christmas season closer to businesses’ and households’ hearts.

Read: Decision on approving Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be made in ‘shortest time possible,’ U.K. regulator says

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