England's Second National Lockdown Will End On December 2
Many shops remain closed in central London (Credit: PA)
England's second national lockdown will end in 10 days, ministers have confirmed, but a stricter 'tier' system of restrictions will be introduced.
Blanket curbs will come to an end as planned on December 2 and people will be able to get together with family members for Christmas, with Boris Johnson set to present his latest "Covid winter plan" to MPs.
Reports suggest more areas will be placed under higher tier restrictions, with the previous 10pm curfew imposed on pubs and restaurants set to be extended.
Downing Street said: "Everyone's efforts during the current national restrictions have helped bring the virus back under control, slowed its spread and eased pressures on the NHS.
"But the prime minister and his scientific advisers 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.
"That would put in jeopardy the progress the country has made, and once again risk intolerable pressure on the NHS."
Cabinet discussions are expected to take place on Sunday, ahead of a Commons statement by the PM on Monday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who will unveil his Comprehensive Spending Review next week, told Sky's Sophy Ridge: "The good news is we will be exiting national restrictions and going back into a tiered system.
"As frustrating as it is for all of us, Christmas is not going to be normal this year, but the PM and everyone else have been looking at ways that families can spend time with each other over the Christmas period."
Mr Sunak said it was "difficult to be precise and granular about the impact of an individual measure we might take" but that early positive news of a vaccine was a cause for optimism.
"It should give us all hope that there are other ways to supress the spread of the virus, so we can get to the target that we all want, which is all of our lives and the economy back to normal."
Experts say community cases of Covid-19 have fallen as a result of national measures, with the death rate among hospital admissions falling from one-in-three to around one-in-six.
Professor Calum Semple, a specialist in outbreak medicine and member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said: "You can't ban Christmas. Hopefully we will be able to relax some regulations for a few days, but there will be a price for that."
He said it was likely there would be a period of higher level restrictions to offset the potential impact of allowing people to meet for Christmas, but that people should not expect them to be "Draconian".
But Labour's shadow business minister Lucy Powell said the government must avoid focusing too much on Christmas and set out a "clear route map" for the coming months.
She said: "What we get from government is focusing on one small aspect when then gets over-briefed and over-played and then they have to pull back the drawbridge at the last minute."
The Manchester Central MP said many businesses were "absolutely on their knees after many, many months of mixed messages, changing guidelines and changing measures".
"The whole point of this national lockdown was to have a reset moment," she added.