Hull, the North West and other parts of England badly hit by Covid are expected to be placed under Tier Three when the national lockdown ends on December 2.
Boris Johnson will set out which tiers local authorities will fall into on Thursday, but he warned that ‘most’ places are likely to have the higher tiers imposed on them.
Debate rages on over which tier London should be in under the new system, with the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan predicting the city will face Tier Two — which bans mixing indoors with other households. But senior Tories including Sir Ian Duncan Smith last night demanded the city, the beating heart of the UK’s economy, is put under Tier One.
Whitehall sources told the Daily Mail last night that very few areas would be afforded Tier One restrictions, with only the rural regions — such as Cornwall and South Oxfordshire — likely to see the lightest rules applied.
The toughened Tiers, revealed yesterday, include the forced closure of restaurants, pubs, and cinemas in Tier Three except for takeaway. But there was a silver lining with gyms and non-essential shops allowed to stay open under all the restrictions.
SAGE minutes published yesterday reveal the Government will apply the tiers depending on the total number of Covid-19 infections in an area, and the rate at which they are surging.
The Government’s top scientists slammed ministers yesterday for failing to ramp up restrictions, even if cases were surging, until they had become widespread. They added that Tier Two – which bans mixing in households – should be considered the ‘minimum threshold’ for all areas.
The onerous tiered system which the Prime Minister has said will remain in place until March 31
Commuters are packed onto a London tube on October 26 as the capital’s millions continue to toil amid the pandemic
Mr Khan (pictured earlier this year) thinks his city is going into ‘what is called Tier 2’
The Prime Minister said last night where the tiers are imposed would depend on the total number of Covid-19 cases in all age groups, especially the over 60s, the rate at which they are rising or falling, and the current and projected pressures on the NHS.
‘We expect more regions to fall, at least temporally, into higher levels than before but by using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below one,’ he warned last night.
But he added the toughened tiers should make it possible for local authorities ‘to move down the tiering scale to lower levels of restrictions’ as cases start to plummet.
There are likely to be substantial challenges around which restrictions London is placed under, with Tory heavyweight Sir Ian telling the Telegraph the capital ‘must’ be in Tier One.
‘London is dominant in the economy and we need it to get back to work immediately,’ he said.
Another London MP told the Guardian they were ‘fiercely lobbying’ for pubs, bars and restaurants to be re-opened in the capital.
Sadiq Khan told LBC yesterday: ‘It’s a bit early to say yet, but based on the numbers that I’ve seen, which is a slowdown in the virus spreading, it’s coming down in parts of London in a couple of boroughs.’
‘What I hope would happen is … London would probably be in what is called Tier Two.’
None of London’s boroughs have a Covid-19 infection rate below 100 cases per 100,000 people, according to Public Health England figures from the seven-day spell ending November 15, the latest date for which data is available.
But in 20 of the 32 boroughs the infection rate rose last week, with the biggest jumps in Havering, Enfield and Redbridge.
The highest infection rate is in Havering, in the north-east of the city, the only borough where they surged above 300 per 100,000.
The number of patients being rushed to hospital in the capital suffering from Covid-19 remains low, according to the Department of Health, at a seven-day average of 154.7 admissions on November 17. But this is far below the peak of the first wave, when on average 748 patients were being taken to hospital with Covid-19 every day.
These levels are also among the lowest in the country, which ministers are expected to argue mean that London can be spared the sharpest curbs on public freedoms.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, told the Evening Standard said that the figures suggested the capital should be moved ‘at the very least’ into Tier Two, if not Tier One.
‘Reopening in a safe and sustainable way is vital to ensure that retailers and leisure operators get the best possible opportunity to make up some of the billions in lost trade this season,’ they said.
‘In order for this to be most effective, we hope the Government recognises the latest figures we have seen in the capital and will see fit to place London at the very least in Tier Two, if not Tier One.’
Noam Bar, co-founder of the Ottolenghi food empire with chef and best friend Yotam, said: ‘We have learnt to live with Tier Two, though of course Tier One is preferable both for us as a business and for the Government — on Tier One we’d employ more staff and pay more taxes.’
In 20 of London’s 32 regions last week there were increased infection rates. The biggest jumps being Havering (up from 309.4 to 386.0), Enfield (up from 175.6 to 230.4) and Redbridge (up from 249.0 to 300.4)
Two weeks ago the average infection rates were largely lower than today – but the worst-hit London boroughs are still outside the top 100 in the league table of 317 authorities in England, Department of Health statistics show
There is also likely to be significant opposition to plans to impose higher tiers in the North of England, with the Sheffield mayor Dan Jarvis warning: ‘We’re willing to do our bit, but we must not be taken for granted.’
Liverpool’s Labour mayor Joe Anderson and Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham have also come out hard against being plunged into the toughest measures.
Many are said to be pointing the finger at the capital, saying it should be placed under the harshest measures.
Across England the district of Swale, in Kent, has the worst infection rate in the country at 631.7 per 100,000.
Local leaders there have spoken of their ‘frustration’ that residents appear not to be following restrictions, and taking simple precautions such as wearing a face mask.
Swale’s local council leader, Roger Truelove, said lockdown rules in the borough were being ‘willfully disregarded’, with residents regularly not wearing face coverings and ignoring social distancing.
An emergency meeting was held yesterday by local councillors and health officials to discuss why the district – which is home to about 150,000 and includes the Isle of Sheppey – has seen such rapid growth of the virus.
The latest analysis of PHE figures, by the Press Association news agency, found Covid-19 case rates started to fall in most local areas across England in the most recent week, up to November 18.
In only two of the nine regions are a majority of areas recording a week-on-week rise – London and the South East. It is still too soon to judge the full impact on case rates of the England-wide lockdown, however.
The nationwide restrictions began on November 5, and the most recent figures are for the week ending November 18 – just 14 days into the lockdown.
Given it can take up to two weeks for Covid-19 symptoms to appear, and further time for somebody to be tested and the result to be processed, more data is needed to be certain about how and where case rates are falling.
But the latest figures suggest the numbers are heading in the right direction, though crucially not in all parts of England.
The rate is rising in 34 out of 67 local authority areas in south-east England, the worrying figures show. Other areas with big jumps include Medway (up from 256.3 to 384.8) and Gravesham (up from 269.3 to 386.2).
The biggest week-on-week fall has been recorded in Oxford, where the rate has dropped from 256.5 to 152.8. The Isle of Wight has the lowest rate in the region: 76.2, up very slightly from 74.8.
Oldham, which once had the highest rate in England, is down from 641.1 to 442.0 – the biggest week-on-week drop in the North West.
Official testing data shows that coronavirus infection rates are falling across the North of England, where they were highest during the peak of the second wave, but they remain high in some areas of the West Midlands, Kent, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire (Darker colours indicate higher rates of positive tests per 100,000 people)
When the tiered system returns on December 3, they will be reviewed every two weeks to establish whether local authorities need to have stricter curbs imposed or can be dropped to lower restrictions.
It is set to be in place until March 31, at which point the tiered system is set to come to an end.
Boris Johnson said last night that he hoped the country would be able to get back to normal ‘by Easter’, predicting this could be when the elderly and most vulnerable members of the population will have received a Covid-19 vaccine.
Three vaccines – including Oxford’s jab – have said they are at least 70 per cent effective at triggering an immune response, prompting Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to say ‘the end of the tunnel’ of the pandemic is in sight.
The UK has ordered 100million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, with up to four million set to arrive this year. It is also expecting the first part of a delivery of 40million doses from Pfizer and BioNtech – who say their vaccine is 90 per cent effective – by the end of the year, and five million doses from Moderna – with a 94.5 per cent effective shot – in the spring next year.
Leaked NHS plans reveal they could start vaccinating the elderly and most vulnerable against the virus in early December, with vaccines being rolled out to the rest of the population in the new year.
But scientists have urged caution, warning none of the jabs have yet been approved for mass use by the UK’s regulator the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The regulator reviews data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and how safe it is before deciding whether or not to allow it to be administered across the country. It is a process that usually takes two years but, amid pressure to get life back to normal, the regulator has said it is working hard to make a decision quickly.
The Prime Minister detailed his winter strategy yesterday, with a plan to deploy a major testing scheme in an attempt to winner over rebels on the Conservative backbenches.
He told tell MPs that non-essential shops can open in all three tiers after the current restrictions expire on December 2, in a boost for retailers.
Mr Johnson also set out the basis of plans to allow a small number of households across the UK to mix over a limited number of days around Christmas.
In a Commons statement this afternoon, Boris Johnson is set to confirm the second national lockdown will end in England on December 2, with a return to the regional approach that was in force before