BORIS Johnson is expected to announce whether Bolton will move to Tier 2 restrictions later this week.

The Prime Minister should update the country on Wednesday, after the current restrictions are reviewed.

Although Bolton's infection rate has dropped significantly – there is doubt surrounding the relaxation of restrictions after health bosses nationally called on Mr Johnson to not ease any restrictions ahead of the Christmas restriction changes.

Can pubs reopen before Christmas?

Possibly. Cllr David Greenhalgh vowed to push for Bolton to move to Tier 2 restrictions.

The Bolton Council leader believes that the infection rate change shows that the borough can have restrictions eased, allowing pubs and restaurants able to serve substantial meals to reopen their doors before Christmas.

However, NHS bosses warned Boris Johnson that relaxing restrictions could trigger a third wave of coronavirus at the busiest time of year for hospitals.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, urged “extreme caution” in moving any area of England to a lower tier.

Chief executive Chris Hopson told the BBC: “We’re about to hit our busiest time of year so people are really worried that if we relax the restrictions now the NHS simply won’t be able to cope with all of the work that it needs to do in late December, January and February.”

While the letter did not call for a review of the temporary relaxation of measures over Christmas, NHS Providers said it was “vital” the public understands the risks of extra social contact during the festive period.

Social distancing rules will be relaxed for five days between December 23 and 27, allowing family members to hug for the first time in months.

How are tiers decided?

The Department of Health said decisions on tier levels were based on a number of factors, including case detection rates in all age groups and, in particular, amongst the over 60s.

How quickly case rates are rising or falling, and the immediate impact on local NHS services and the projected impact are also taken into account.

The final decisions were made by the Prime Minister at the Covid Operations Committee.

When are the tiers reviewed?

Areas can be moved up or down tiered restrictions depending on whether or not these indicators are improving or worsening.

If infection rates are rising and the pressure on local NHS services is increasing then an area may be moved up a tier.

Likewise an area may be moved down if these factors are easing and improving.

The tiers are set to be reviewed on Wednesday, but will be reassessed every two weeks.

It is not yet known whether the Christmas restriction changes will affect the next review date.

Why can't parts of Bolton be under different tiers?

Varying infection rates across an area will not allow spots with low numbers of cases to have restrictions eased.

The Health Secretary indicated that towns and villages will not be able to move alert level by being “decoupled” from nearby coronavirus hotspots.

Matt Hancock said in a letter to Tory MPs that “narrow carve-outs” of lower prevalence areas often leads to them “catching up” or “overtaking” areas with higher levels, according to the Daily Telegraph.

When will things go back to normal?

Officials can't be certain, but the lead researcher behind the Oxford vaccine has warned that the festive period could have a "big impact" on this.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said that travelling and mixing with others over Christmas could hinder the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the new year.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Prof Gilbert said life could be “more or less” back to normal by next summer – but that depends on transmission rates in January.

She said: "What we’ve seen in the US is that after Thanksgiving, when people were travelling and mixing, there’s now been a big surge in infections and they’re seeing 3,000 deaths a day now – the highest rate there’s ever been in any country.

“If we have that kind of thing happening over the Christmas holidays in this country, with very high transmission rates then possible in January, it’s going to take so much longer to get things back to normal.

“Because partly, all the vaccination clinics will be disrupted. It’s not possible to run vaccination clinics when staff are off sick, and there’s a very high transmission rate affecting people’s ability to come to be vaccinated.

“Hopefully we could be more or less back to normal by the summer, but that’s not going to be possible if we’re starting from a very bad position in January.”