The latest Tier changes
MOVING TO TIER 3
Surrey apart from Waverley
Hastings and Rother
Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant
MOVING FROM TIER 3 TO TIER 2
Bristol, North Somerset
MOVING FROM TIER 2 TO TIER 1
Matt Hancock faced fury today as he plunged another swathe of Tory home counties heartlands into draconian coronavirus restrictions – with more than 36million people now facing the toughest Tier 3.
The Health Secretary was branded ‘ridiculous’ as he delivered the grim news for England amid growing fears over a surge in cases.
Announced the review of the tiers in the House of Commons, he said large parts of the East and South East will go into Tier 3, including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey with the exception of Waverley, Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex, and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire.
It means around 36.5million people, or 68 per cent of the population, will now be subject to the top bracket – including the Queen at Windsor Castle.
In a glimmer of light, Mr Hancock said Bristol and North Somerset will be moved down to Tier 2 – but he dashed hopes that restrictions could be eased on Manchester and parts of the Midlands.
Herefordshire is also being shifted to Tier 1 from midnight on Saturday morning.
‘We must be vigilant and keep this virus under control,’ Mr Hancock told MPs. ‘We’ve come so far, we mustn’t blow it now.’
He added: ‘This is a moment when we act with caution.’
Mr Hancock said case rates in the south of England were up 46 per cent in the last week while hospital admissions are up by more than a third, adding in the east of England cases are up two thirds and hospital admissions up by nearly half in the last week.
He also batted away complaints from low-infection areas of Kent about the blanket status for the county, urging residents to ‘behave like they have the virus’. ‘It is the area of the country that has the biggest problem,’ Mr Hancock said.
London, along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, have already been upgraded into the harshest level of curbs – which mean pubs and restaurants can only serve takeaway – after seeing sharp rises in infections.
Health experts had urged Boris Johnson not to lower Tier 3 areas into Tier 2 but ministers were also warned of growing unrest in cities under the toughest restrictions.
While Tier 2 areas in Oxfordshire, East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and Northamptonshire have all seen a rise in infections in the last seven days, cities such as Greater Manchester and Leeds have seen their rates drop.
Greater Manchester’s night-time tsar Sacha Lord said the decision to keep it at the highest level was a ‘kick in the teeth’. Manchester council leader Richard Leese branded it ‘unbelievable’.
Worryingly for Mr Johnson, Conservative 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady also slammed the decisions. He said his Altrincham & Sale West seat had lower rates than Bristol, which has been downgraded. ‘My constituents have behaved responsibly,’ he told Mr Hancock. ‘What exactly do we have to do to be moved out of Tier 3?’
Conservative MP for Stevenage Stephen McPartland said it was ‘ridiculous’ his area was being escalated. ‘Totally unacceptable & clearly shows I was right to vote against a second lockdown & tier system,’ he said.
‘Government accepted on Monday that tiers should be imposed on a district basis instead of this unbalanced county-wide approach.’
Tory MP for North West Leicestershire Andrew Bridgen said it was ‘disappointing news’ that his constituency would stay in Tier 3. Mr Bridgen had been asking for his area to be decoupled from Leicester, which has much higher infection levels.
‘It is disappointing news for my constituents who have worked so hard to suppress the virus,’ he said.
The review took place as figures revealed how daily coronavirus infections in the UK have spiked by 50 per cent again as health chiefs recorded another 25,161 cases in the last 24 hours.
Covid-19 deaths have also risen 14 per cent week-on-week, with 612 new victims reported today compared to 533 a week ago.
It is the second day in a row that daily infections spiked by more than 50 per cent after 18,450 positive tests were announced on Tuesday, up from 12,282 a week earlier.
The announcements came on another dramatic day where:
- Priti Patel said people should report neighbours who are flouting Christmas bubble rules – but only if they are having ‘raves’;
- A total of 109,167 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to December 9, according to the latest Test and Trace figures;
- The government is expected to declare that schools in England will only teach online in January amid the spike in cases;
- The Welsh Labour Government has been blasted for ‘another staggering cock-up’ after a computer maintenance glitch led to 11,000 coronavirus cases being missed from the nation’s official tally;
- French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating;
- UK’s daily Covid cases rose 50 per cent in a week with 25,161 more positive tests – as officials record another 612 deaths;
- Butlin’s announced plans to close two of its resorts amid fears visitors would travel from Tier 3 areas and spread Covid on their holidays;
Matt Hancock said large parts of the East and South East, including Bedfordshire and all of Hertfordshire will be moved up the scale
UK’s daily Covid cases rise 50 per cent in a week with 25,161 more positive tests – as officials record another 612 deaths
Daily coronavirus infections in the UK have spiked by 50 per cent again as health chiefs recorded another 25,161 cases in the last 24 hours.
Covid-19 deaths have also risen 14 per cent week-on-week, with 612 new victims reported yesterday, compared to 533 a week ago.
Yesterday’s cases are the highest since November 14, when England was in full lockdown, and mark a 51 per cent jump on the 16,578 figure last Wednesday.
It’s the second day in a row that daily infections spiked by more than 50 per cent after 18,450 positive tests were announced on Tuesday, up from 12,282 a week earlier.
The seven-day average number of daily cases – considered a more accurate indicator because it accounts for day-to-day fluctuations – is nearly 21,000, the highest in more than three weeks.
Places with falling rates of the virus, such as areas in Leeds, Leicestershire and Greater Manchester, had hoped to be moved down.
Leaders in Leeds, Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire had also called for their Tier 3 status to be reviewed amid falling infection figures.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said this morning there was a ‘clear case’ for his region to go down to Tier 2.
But he said he feared ministers will ‘overcompensate’ because of the decision to allow the Christmas easing of restrictions to go ahead despite warnings it will lead to a spike in infections and deaths.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky News that ministers have to be ‘very, very conscientious’ over changes to the tiering and described the assessments of the situation as ‘sobering’.
Tory MP Mark Pawsey, the member for Rugby and Bulkington, tweeted: ‘Very disappointed to see that Rugby & Warwickshire are not being taken down a tier.
‘This decision will continue to have serious consequences for our pubs & restaurants.’
One Tory MP told MailOnline: ‘It does worry me because frankly once everyone is locked down again what happens? The pattern seems to be that as soon as you remove the measures the virus flares up again.
‘We need to find more intelligent ways of living with the virus. The economic damage is horrendous, particularly the pubs. It is terrifying.
‘If you’re going to lockdown places, concentrate on those with the highest incidence rates, be a bit more selective about it, a bit more nuanced.
‘If the thrust is towards another lockdown then the economy is just going to disappear.’
Mark Harper, Conservative former chief whip and chairman of the new Covid Recovery Group, demanded assurances on when restrictions can start to be released.
Mr Harper said: ‘In the data that is going to be published from next week, can he confirm that it will have enough detail in it so that we can see clearly the vaccination roll-out by age and by area.
‘And can he set out early when we return in January the Government’s thinking about how far the vaccination process needs to have gone, the level of risk we will have reduced the country by, so that we can start releasing the restrictions that are so burdensome on our population?’
Matt Hancock replied: ‘We are committed to setting out weekly updates on the vaccination programme.’
He added: ‘And also, increasingly in the sort of breakdowns that he asks for as more and more groups are reached. And the calculus that he asks for in terms of the proportion of the population who need to be protected in order to be able to bring down restrictions is exactly how we are thinking about the next phase.
Earlier, Mr Bridgen warned that failure to move areas down could mean the ‘discipline that has seen us through so far will disappear and then it’s going to be a disaster’.
Mr Burnham said the Government had made a clear ‘mistake’ over Christmas, in easing the law to allow three households to come together between December 23 and 27.
‘My worry is they’re now about to overcompensate with the decisions on the tiers,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire entered Tier 3 on Wednesday, meaning 34 million people or 61 per cent of England’s population are living under the toughest level of restrictions.
The decisions today are set to increase that number by another four million.
Last night, NHS Providers, representing the 216 NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health trusts in England, wrote to the Prime Minister warning of a third wave of Covid-19.
The trusts urged ‘extreme caution’ in moving regions down a tier, said some areas should move into Tier Three without delay, and called for more debate about the Christmas guidelines.
They warned of ‘significant pressure’ on hospital beds, and said some areas were seeing ‘worrying’ increases in infection, despite the lockdown.
NHS Providers added: ‘Trust leaders are worried that if infection rates remain as high as they are the moment, relaxing the restrictions will trigger a third wave.’
More than 34 million people, or 61 per cent of England’s population, are currently living under the strictest measures after London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into Tier Three yesterday (WED).
Under Tier Three rules, restaurants, bars and pubs are forced to shut and people can no longer meet family and friends from other households in private gardens.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the system yesterday, saying that three out of four Tier Two areas were seeing increases in infections.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: ‘The problem is the Prime Minister makes the same mistakes over and over again.’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘We will continue with that tiering system and we will get that virus down. That is the best way forward for this country.’
Areas that hoped to get tiers downgraded today
Some areas had hoped to see their tier levels downgraded today.
Tameside in Greater Manchester has seen a 30 per cent drop in Covid infection figures since the end of lockdown. It is currently in Tier 3 and could be moved into Tier 2.
East Riding of Yorkshire has also been in Tier 3 since the end of lockdown. It has seen a 22 per cent drop in case figures. However its figures are still just above the Tier 2 average.
Gateshead, in the north-east, has however dropped below the Tier 2 average. The area had been significantly higher than the Tier 3 average at the start of lockdown.
But while some hoped to come down, others were at risk of heading up.
Sussex, particularly East Sussex, has seen a spike of late.
In Hastings cases have shot up above both the Tier 2 and now the Tier 3 average.
Bracknell Forest, in Berkshire, has also seen its figures jump just above the Tier 3 average.
Most regions are likely to remain in their current tiers after Public Health England (PHE) data showed that more than two-thirds of areas across England are seeing a rise in Covid-19 case rates.
Oxfordshire has 188 cases per 100,000 and 50 cases per 100,000 people in the over-60s age group, and opened walk-through Covid test sites in the county yesterday.
East and West Sussex and Brighton and Hove have 232 cases per 100,000 people and 63 cases per 100,000 in those over the age of 60.
Earlier this week it was revealed that some schools in Brighton were forced to close due to outbreaks of the virus.
Northamptonshire has also seen a rise with 344 cases per 100,000 and 61 cases per 100,000 in the over-60s.
One political source told the Sun that their was growing unrest in Tier 3 cities where infection figures were falling.
The insider, in the Midlands, said: ‘If they don’t come out of Tier 3 there will be riots. They have brought their rates down immeasurably, there is no reason for them not to come out.’
However Whitehall sources say they want to ‘keep driving down’ infection figures.
The source told the Telegraph: ‘This virus is still out there and we don’t just want to flatten the curve, we want to keep driving it down and we want Tier 3 to be really getting those numbers down.
‘The direction of travel is important but the number of cases is also important, and those numbers are still very high.’
But the official appeared to dismiss the idea that Greater Manchester could be brought down a Tier.
The official added: ‘Hospital admissions might be falling but data shows that people are being admitted for longer and the pressure on the NHS remains fairly constant.’
The Government had earlier been under pressure to take a local approach and split counties into different lockdown brackets amid fury that villages with only a handful of cases were being unfairly dragged into the toughest restrictions because of spiralling epidemics in major towns and cities.
Broad brush tactics used by Number 10 have been repeatedly criticised and Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week admitted the Joint Biosecurity Centre would consider splitting areas in pursuit of fairness.
Parts of Essex and Hertfordshire were put into Tier Three, while other areas of the counties were kept out.
But the PM told a Downing Street press conference last night that Kent was still seeing a ‘worrying’ rise in infections and gave no indication that any local authorities would be downgraded.
Mr Johnson said: ‘There is no doubt we are winning and we will win our long struggle against this virus, which makes it all the more important that we hold our nerve this winter.
NHS leaders yesterday warned Boris Johnson not to move anywhere down a tier as Covid-19 infection rates continue to climb across the country
‘Because we are now in a race to protect us all while doing everything we can to keep the virus under control.
‘And thanks to the colossal collective effort in November we did bring the R below 1, we did get the infection rate down.
‘But I must be frank with you, we are already seeing worrying rises in some parts of the country. Kent is still seeing rising infections and the number of cases in London is at 270 per 100,000 people. And that’s why we acted quickly by moving London into Tier 3.’
His comments came after England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty delivered the stark warning that Christmas mixing will lead to more coronavirus deaths in the new year, as he declared ‘this is not a moment to relax at all’.
Professor Whitty bluntly stated that the virus will kill more Britons due to the looser rules over the five-day break between December 23 and 27, and likened the situation to driving at 70mph on an icy road – saying that while it was legal, it was not ‘sensible’.
The CMO, who struck a sombre tone alongside Boris Johnson at a Downing Street press conference last night, said: ‘Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn’t meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths.
‘This is the equivalent of saying these are icy and treacherous conditions… just because you can doesn’t mean you should… This is not a moment to relax at all. Quite the reverse.’
Coronavirus cases recorded in Scotland, England and Wales between March and December are seen above. No update was provided for Wales on Sunday due to planned maintenance of the NHS Welsh Laboratory Information Management System
Revealed: England’s REAL Covid hotspots
Part of an island off the coast of Kent is currently suffering England’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, according to official figures.
Sheppey East — in the Tier Three borough of Swale — had an infection rate of 1,652 cases for every 100,000 people during the most recent week.
For comparison, the Department of Health says the overall figure for England in the same seven-day spell ending December 10 was just 184.
Six other wards across the nation had an infection rate above 1,000 over the same week, including two in Basildon — which entered Tier Three today.
Haltwhistle and Bardon Mill in Northumberland had the second biggest outbreak in the most recent week, with 1,138 cases for every 100,000 people.
The data only includes positive tests and is broken down into Middle Super Output Area, which are smaller wards within authorities and home to around 7,000 people.
A weekly infection rate of 1,000 cases per 100,000 people means 1 per cent of the area’s population caught the disease in seven-days.
Positive Covid tests per 100,000 people (week to December 10)
Haltwhistle & Bardon Mill
Stoke Heath, Finstall & Bentley
Rochester South West
Stafford North East
Laindon East & Lee Chapel North
Hedingham, Gosfield & Greenstead Green
Cathedral & West Common
Kirkhams & Holyrood
MPs from across the country have called for their rural residents to be cut some slack from draconian policies, with people living in ‘zero Covid’ villages lumped under rules triggered by outbreaks in nearby towns or cities.
Kent MP Tom Tugendhat is advocating for the county to be split into sections so people living in the countryside in his constituency can have more freedom.
Kent is in Tier Three because Medway and Swale have some of England’s highest rates — but Department of Health figures show case numbers are rising even in smaller areas, proving that outbreaks can leak out into smaller communities.
In Lancashire and Leicestershire there are calls for some areas to be released from the toughest restrictions, with millions having been forced to live under strict curbs for months on end.
And data shows that counties in the South East – England’s new hotspot – are divided, with cases high and rising in the towns but much lower in the greener areas around them, with splits potentially on the cards for East and West Sussex.
Kent became the first part of southern England to be thrust into Tier Three rules when they were put in place on December 2.
The toughest rules mean restaurants, cafes and pubs must close except for takeaways and people cannot meet with others except in parks or public open spaces, in maximum groups of six.
Cinemas, bowling alleys and ice rinks must close, but shops and hairdressers can remain open. Travel in and out of the area is advised against.
When Kent was put into Tier Three, rates in Swale and Medway were rocketing and they remain some of the highest in England now, at 673 and 640 positive cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 10 – a combined 2,793 positive tests.
But Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling to the south of Medway, is calling for a more local approach.
His entire constituency is in Tier Three but some areas have rates significantly lower than the England average, such as Hadlow & East Peckham and Tonbridge Higham Wood, which have seen only 13 cases each in the most recent week.
Mr Tugendhat said on BBC Radio 4 yesterday: ‘We’ve got to look at communities within our country as relevant to the people living there and not simply blanket approaches across the entire county.
‘In a county like Kent which is 1.9million people, so over half the size of Manchester or about a quarter the size of London, treating it as a single entity is not entirely practical.’
He said breaking down even one constituency into smaller areas showed ‘distinct differences’ in outbreaks.
‘In some of the wards that I’m lucky enough to represent you’ll see zero cases of Covid at all,’ he added, ‘because this is still, sadly, very much more of an urban and metropolitan sickness than it is rural.
‘Many of the rural areas have much lower rates of infection because of population density and much lower travel between areas.’
MPs have made the same claims across the country, notably about Leicestershire in the House of Commons yesterday.
Leicester and some areas around it have never truly been freed from lockdown rules since the first wave ended in May, with some form of restriction having been placed on the city all year because of stubborn infection rates. The whole county is currently in Tier Three.
The official infection map of Kent shows that some areas in the north of the county, such as Medway and Swale, have some of the highest Covid rates in the country (darker colour shows higher numbers of coronavirus cases), while areas in the south are less badly affected