Published: 08:59, 22 November 2020
| Updated: 09:30, 22 November 2020
Boris Johnson is expected to announce plans tomorrow for a tougher three-tier system of restrictions when lockdown ends - but where will Kent emerge on December 2?
Details are likely to be revealed of Covid-19 measures set to be applied across the UK, with infection rates dictating which tier areas are placed into.
At the time of lockdown being announced on October 31, Kent's rate was 108 weekly cases per 100,000 people - well below the England average of 232.
But as the national rate now begins to fall, the county's continues to soar, rising a worrying 167% to 288 since Boris revealed the country was being shut down for a second time.
What tier was Kent in before lockdown?
The county was classed as 'medium risk' and placed under the most lenient Tier 1 restrictions.
This meant different households could mix indoors - but only in groups of six - and all pubs, restaurants. gyms and shops were allowed to remain open.
But with the county's infection rate creeping above 100 towards the end of October, KentOnline understands the county was poised to enter Tier 2.
KCC held talks with local council leaders about the implications, and was due to make a big announcement on the night of Friday, October 30.
It pulled the plug at the 11th hour, with Boris announcing the second lockdown the following day.
Will Kent go back into Tier 1?
The chances of this happening are almost zero unless there is an unprecedented and unexpected fall in cases before lockdown ends.
The county's public health chief, Andrew Scott-Clark, last week said: "I would say to people now, don't expect to come out at the same place as we went in."
He said soaring infection rates were to blame, but added that the effect of the lockdown restrictions had yet to be seen.
How bad is the situation in Kent?
Few places in the UK are seeing rates rise at the speed currently seen in the county.
Before lockdown Kent was performing comparably well, with worrying outbreaks seen mostly in the north of England.
But the tide has turned in recent weeks.
On October 17- the start of half-term for many schools - Kent's rate was 48, but by October 31 had risen to 108.
By November 16 it had soared to 288.
At the same time, the national rate has fallen to 259 after hitting a peak of 275.
So is Kent looking at Tier 2 or Tier 3?
This is the big question.
There is no magic number at which areas are plunged into Tier 3, and only so much can be drawn from looking at when other places across England suffered such a fate.
Liverpool was placed in Tier 3 on October 14 when its rate was 661. It has since fallen below Kent's, to 235.
Manchester's rate was 530 when it entered Tier 3 on October 23. It is now 342.
And in Leeds the rate was 424 when it was announced it would be placed under the toughest restrictions from November 2, but the moved was superseded by the second lockdown.
Its rate has now fallen to 387.
But while cases are dropping in all of those areas, they continue to spike in Kent, with a 45% jump in the most recent week alone.
If such a trend continues, the county could find itself in Tier 3 territory by the time post-lockdown decisions are made - expected to be as early as Thursday.
The government is expected to place more areas in the highest tier, meaning the benchmark for these restrictions is likely to be lowered.
It likely means the tide having to turn sharply for Kent to emerge from lockdown in Tier 2.
Will the whole of Kent be under the same Tier?
This is another bone of contention, as Andrew Scott-Clark has not ruled out district-by-district restrictions, although he is likely to be guided by central government.
He has said previously: "It would make no sense to put enhanced public health measures into a place like Dartford if we see cases rising at the other end of the county."
Such measures would see areas with the highest rates in Kent possibly placed in Tier 3, while those with the lowest could emerge in Tier 1.
Policing the system would also likely be a logistical nightmare, with pubs and restaurants in one town forced to shut, while those in a neighbouring town are allowed to open.
So what areas are under threat of Tier 3?
Again, there is no benchmark figure for Tier 3 restrictions, but four areas of Kent currently have an infection rate above 300.
Swale's - at 655 - is the highest and continues to rise rapidly, increasing 107% in the most recent week alone.
Kent's was 108 when it was poised to move into Tier 2.
How did the first tier system work?
In Tier 1 areas were subject to the same national measures in force at the time, including a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Under Tier 2, households were banned from mixing indoors and rule of six continued to apply outdoors.
In Tier 3 - the toughest of them all - different households were banned from meeting indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.
Local leaders were to help determine whether other venues should be closed, such as gyms or casinos, in very high alert level areas.
So what is happening now?
It will likely see more areas are expected to be place in the higher tiers, which will be strengthened to keep the virus under control.
The plan will also outline out how people will be able to spend their Christmas, but ministers stressed some restrictions are expected to remain in place.
When will the new system be introduced?
Most likely from December 2, as an extension of the current lockdown or as a completely new system of restrictions.
The Cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the new plan today, before Boris Johnson announces it to Parliament tomorrow.
Ministers will then set out what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday and MPs are expected to be given the vote to approve the new system in the days before it comes into force.
How long will the new system last for?
The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.
But with no vaccines having been approved it is still not clear exactly when the rollout will be able to begin.
What is expected over Christmas?
Several households – potentially three – could be allowed to create a bubble temporarily between December 22 and 28, with the plans covering all four nations of the UK, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Restrictions on church services are also due to be lifted allowing Christmas Day services to be held, the paper said.
But while plans have not yet been set out, ministers have made clear that the festive season will be different to normal.