UNCERTAINTY continues to hang over businesses in York as they await news of what tier the city will be placed in.

Tiered restrictions will be in force until the end of March with more parts of England expected to be placed into higher tiers from December 2 than before the national lockdown was imposed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the new tiers would be tougher than before, after Government scientific advisers said the previous regime did not do enough to tackle the virus.

The announcement of the new measures came as the Oxford-AstraZeneca team announced its vaccine had proved 70 per cent effective.

Mr Johnson told MPs the three-tiered approach had been beefed up.

Under the new system:

- In Tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal.

- In Tier 3, pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services, while indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will close.

The 10pm curfew will be relaxed, with last orders now called at that time and premises ordered to shut at 11pm.

Mr Johnson said: "From next Wednesday people will be able to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the rule of six, collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.

"But without sensible precautions, we would risk the virus escalating into a winter or New Year surge."

Details of which areas will be in which tiers will be set out on Thursday, Mr Johnson said.

"I'm sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall at least temporarily into higher levels than before," he warned.

Despite the tougher measures, the Government's scientific advisers warned a "Tier 4" may be required in areas where Tier 3 restrictions are not able to shrink the epidemic.

The Sage scientific advisory panel also questioned the value of Tier 1, concluding that "Tier 2 is the minimum intervention required to maintain any degree of control on transmission".

As well as the progress on vaccines, Mr Johnson pointed to the expansion of rapid mass testing as a way of returning to something approaching normality.

This could include allowing people who test negative greater freedoms and the prospect of a daily test replacing precautionary self-isolation for people who come into contact with a coronavirus case.

Carolyn Frank, development manager North Yorkshire, Federation of Small Businesses , said the announcement brought relief for many of York’s small businesses.

"But the impact of which tier we emerge from lockdown in to has yet to be known," she said.

"Many of our local businesses are carrying uncertainty and financial worries into the new year, and will be relying on a Christmas uplift, so I encourage people to use local businesses where possible to help them survive the pandemic – our message is to “think local first”.

"The announced end of the 10pm curfew will be a welcome one for those, especially in the food and drink sector, for which our area is renowned, and the many businesses who supply the sector here who also need a boost.

"Hairdressers and beauty therapists too, who have worked hard to ensure they are Covid-safe will be pleased to be able to remain open and continue trading after what has been a tumultuous year for them.

"We know, based on the evidence, that these locations were not major transmission sites for the virus, and that businesses have invested widely to ensure they keep their customers safe when visiting.

"The newly self-employed and company directors have been left with little or no help from the government, and that has to change urgently which is why we’ve called for, in a joint letter, a Directors Income Support Scheme which would finally address the shortcomings that these individuals have faced, at a time when they still need to provide for their families.

"We also need more certainty on jobs, to fire up the economy again.

"With schemes like the job retention bonus withdrawn, there is another gap in support which needs addressing, and the financial support which has been provided by government is still not enough for many businesses, and doesn’t even cover high rents, never mind other overheads or growth investment.

"So this is not a solution for all sectors, or all businesses and the self-employed by any means.

"York businesses have shown their resilience throughout the pandemic, and small businesses are at the heart of the community here, and they are doing all they can to help their customers and York’s residents all through lockdown and beyond in the most difficult trading year ever, so we need to be sure they have the right level of support not just at the festive period, but for their future too, both from residents and local and national government."