AS CORONAVIRUS cases rise across the UK, many are wondering what new measures the government could introduce to halt the spread.
Already more than three-quarters of the population are already living under the strictest Tier 4 rules, and there is now speculation that a Tier 5 is on the horizon – but what rules would be in place for this level?
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What is ‘Tier 5’?
The tier system was brought back following the second national lockdown ending on December 2.
Initially starting with just three tiers, on December 19, Boris Johnson announced a fourth – and stricter – level would be introduced, with London among those entering into it.
This is due to the spread of the new Covid strain spreading from the South East.
And with infections continuing to rise, speculation has risen over a possible fifth tier that could resemble the first national lockdown for the most infected areas.
However – Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, December 30, that the UK will not be plunged back into a national lockdown or Tier 5 today.
But on January 3, Boris Johnson refused to rule out another full lockdown or Tier 5, when asked if we would go back to March’s rules of limit exercise and school closures.
He told the Andrew Marr Show: “It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country. I’m fully, fully reconciled to that.”
The 56-year-old added: “There are obviously a range of tougher measures that that we would have to consider…
“You’ve spoken about Tier 5, I haven’t said that. But there are obviously a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider.”
What could ‘Tier 5’ rules be?
Nobody knows for certain what a “Tier 5” would entail – or if restrictions tougher than the current Tier 4 will be put in place.
However, government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he needs to implement stricter measures to stop the virus from spiralling out of control.
There is no suggestion it would be called “Tier 5”, but the measures that are being called for go further than the current Tier 4 ones.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has told the PM that because of the new faster-spreading variant of the virus, the R rate would surge above 1 in January, it has been reported.
A senior Whitehall source told the Express: “We are ruling nothing out, the new strain is of serious concern. Tier 4 appears to not be strong enough.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also acknowledged that “it may be necessary to take further action” to stop rising infection levels.
The news comes as Covid hospital admissions in England have soared past the April peak at “unprecedented levels” during the Christmas week as doctors warn “vulnerable” hospitals are on the brink of being overwhelmed.
Cases have soared to the highest numbers yet, with 57,725 positive tests reported on January 2.
Despite no confirmation, many are guessing that Tier 5 could mean a total ban from leaving the house for non-essential reasons.
Under Tier 4, pubs, bars and restaurants are still allowed to operate as a takeaway facility.
Some think a tougher restriction will see these shut – leaving only essential shops open like supermarkets and pharmacies.
Under Tier 4, you can’t mix indoors with anyone outside your household or support bubble – but you can meet one person outside in a public place like a park.
It’s predicted that if another tougher tier was to be introduced then this luxury would banned.
Some have even been pointing towards Italy’s initial lockdown, which saw people banned from even going for a walk outdoors.
In England’s Tier 4, you can leave home for “permitted reasons” like travelling to work or education.
But many are wondering what will happen if the cases keep shooting up – will working from home, and school closures become compulsory?
However, for now, nothing is for certain.
Which areas are under Tier 4?
A total of 44 million people are now under Tier 4 Covid restrictions, after more areas moved into the tier on New Year’s Eve.
More of the Midlands, the North East, parts of the North West and South West of England went into the highest coronavirus measures on December 31, Matt Hancock announced.
These are the areas that are currently under Tier 4 lockdown:
- All 32 London boroughs plus City of London
East of England
- Derby and Derbyshire
- Leicester City and Leicestershire
- Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
- North East Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of County Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland)
- North of Tyne Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland)
- Tees Valley Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees)
- Greater Manchester
- Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen, and Blackpool
- Warrington and Cheshire Region
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
- Gloucestershire (Cheltenham, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Gloucester City, Stroud and Tewkesbury)
- Somerset (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, and South Somerset)
- Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton
- Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
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When is the next lockdown review?
The next formal review of tiering decisions will take place January 13, 2021, and it will determine if we will spend more weeks in lockdown.
The government says it “keeps the data under constant review” and is not afraid to act “to protect local communities”.
It says: “Data assessed includes how quickly case rates are going up or down, cases in the over 60s, pressure on the NHS and local circumstances.
“Where regions are densely populated with lots of people travelling between areas, tiers must be targeted at the appropriate level to protect people and control transmission.”