LONDON (REUTERS) - London will be placed into the second highest Covid-19 risk category when a national lockdown ends on Dec 2, while much of England remains under the toughest level of restrictions to control the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that blanket restrictions in England will end after a month-long lockdown, to be replaced by a system of regional restrictions to try to insulate the worst-hit areas.
"Hope is on the horizon but we still have further to go so we must all dig deep, the end is in sight, we mustn't give up now," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament.
"We must follow these new rules and make sure that our actions today will save lives in future and help get our country through this," Hancock said.
The decision has been keenly anticipated by businesses all across the country whose ability to trade in the pre-Christmas period will be affected. Hospitality is one of the large sectors which will suffer the most in higher tiers.
London will be in tier 2, described as 'high alert'. London was previously in tier 2 before the national lockdown was imposed, although a tighter set of rules for each tier was announced earlier this week.
For London, this means no mixing of households indoors and a maximum of six can meet people outdoors, hospitality venues can only offer alcohol alongside a substantial meal, and attendance will be tightly limited at sporting events.
Large swathes of the country including the northern city of Manchester and the prosperous south-east county of Kent, were placed into the tier 3, the highest tier, which is for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections.
In tier 3 hospitality venues must remain closed, except for takeaway services.
The decisions have been made according to five criteria, including the pressure on health services in each region and the rate of change in positive cases.
Only three regions in England were placed in the lowest category: the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Tiers will be reviewed on Dec 16, making it possible for areas that slow the spread of the virus to be moved down a tier before Christmas.