Boris Johnson confirms new three-tier lockdown system

12 October 2020, 15:42 | Updated: 12 October 2020, 17:40

By Megan White

Boris Johnson has confirmed a new three tier lockdown system in a bid to tackle local outbreaks of coronavirus.

He said we will "simplify and standardise" rules by introducing three tiers - medium, high and very high - in order to implement local lockdowns.

The Liverpool City Region will enter the highest alert level, with pubs, casinos, gyms and betting shops set to close from Wednesday.

Twelve areas are classed as "high".

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They are: Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Warrington, Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North East, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Leicester and Nottingham.

The Prime Minister said areas listed as medium will be subject to the same rules as those which currently apply across the country, such as the rule of six and the 10pm hospitality curfew.

In the high alert level, which will apply to most of the areas already subject to restrictions, household mixing will be banned indoors. Support bubbles will still be permitted, however.

The very high alert level will apply to areas causing the most concern, and social mixing will be prohibited indoors and in private gardens.

Pubs and bars will be closed in the very high alert level areas unless they can operate as a restaurant. People will also be advised against travel in and out of the areas.

Mr Johnson said: "We will now simplify and standardise our local rules, by introducing a three tiered system of local covid alert levels in England set at medium, high and very high."

"The medium alert level will cover most of the country and will consist of the current national measures, this includes the rule of six and the closure of hospitality at 10pm.

"The high alert level reflects the interventions in many local areas at the moment. This primarily aims to reduce household to household transmission by preventing all mixing between different households or support bubbles indoors. In these areas the rule of six will continue to apply outdoors where it is harder for the virus to spread in public spaces as well as private gardens."

Boris Johnson added that he does not believe a full lockdown would be the right course.

He said: "And of course, there are those who say that on that logic, we should go back into a full national lockdown of indefinite duration, closing schools and businesses, telling people again to stay at home as we did in March. Once again shattering our lives and our society.

"I do not believe that would be the right course. We would not only be depriving our children of their education, we would do such damage to our economy as to erode our long-term ability to fund the NHS and other crucial public services.

"And on the other side of the argument, there are those who think that the patience of the public is now exhausted, that we should abandon the fight against Covid, stand aside, let nature take her course and call a halt to these repressions of liberty."

Local leaders will help determine whether other venues should be closed - such as gyms or casinos in very high alert level areas. A four-week sunset clause will apply to the restrictions.

Schools, non-essential retail and universities will remain open in all levels.

A postcode checker will be launched on the Government's website to advise people what guidance applies to their area.

Each local authority area will be placed in a local Covid alert level by the end of Monday, Downing Street said.

Boris Johnson said the R value was already being suppressed to "well below" its natural level, but said measures needed to go further as he outlined a simplification of the rules.

The Prime Minister told the Commons: "Left unchecked, each person with the virus will infect an average of between 2.7 and 3 others, but Sage assesses that the current R nationally is between 1.2 and 1.5.

"So we are already suppressing that R to well below its natural level, which is why the virus is not spreading as quickly as it did in March. But we need to go further.

"In recent months we have worked with local leaders to counter local spikes with targeted restrictions, but this local approach has inevitably produced different sets of rules in different parts of the country that are now complex to understand and to enforce."

Sir Keir Starmer said he is "sceptical" whether the Government has a plan to get control of the virus.

The Labour leader said: "Nobody should be under any illusion about where this is heading, or of the need for decisive action.

"The question today is whether the restrictions announced by the Prime Minister can bring the country back from the brink, whether they can regain control of the virus and provide the support and confidence that local businesses and communities need. That is how high the stakes now are.

"So we will consider the package, we will look at the small print of the Prime Minister's statement, we will discuss them with local mayors, councillors and leaders in the areas most affected and we'll scrutinise the economic package that sits alongside them.

"But I have to say to the Prime Minister, I am now deeply sceptical that the Government has actually got a plan to get control of this virus, to protect jobs or retain public trust."

Sir Keir added that it increasingly feels as if Boris Johnson is "several steps behind the curve".

The Labour leader said: "So can the Prime Minister tell us, what reassurance can he give us that these measures today will be sufficient to get the virus under control?

"Will he finally accept that trace and isolate should be handed over to local authorities, as we've been saying for months?

"Would he accept that the support packages announced by the Chancellor simply won't work for many thousands of people, particularly those on the minimum wage?"

He added: "And will he confirm that mayors, local leaders, council leaders and others will be fully involved in any future decision?"

Sir Keir said the worst thing Boris Johnson can do would be to "not act quickly and decisively enough".

He added: "Finally I want to say this to the Prime Minister. I know that there will be some on his side who will oppose further restrictions, there will be those who look at the data and tell him to disregard it or say the cost of acting now is too high.

"I want to be clear - the worst thing the Prime Minister can do is not act quickly and decisively enough, or to keep coming back to this House every couple of weeks with a new plan that doesn't work and isn't up to the scale of the task.

"We need to break that cycle, finally get on top of the virus, rebuild public confidence. I hope the measures announced today will do so, but the House and the country will be deeply sceptical whether they can."

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