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England's post-lockdown tiers to be revealed - but hardly anywhere will be in Tier 1
26 November 2020, 06:18 | Updated: 26 November 2020, 10:41
The health secretary is to set out which coronavirus tier each local authority in England will fall under after the end of the national lockdown.
Matt Hancock will make the announcement in Parliament on Thursday after the Government set out its Covid-19 "winter plan" earlier this week.
On Wednesday night reports suggested there would be few areas in England placed in Tier 1, with The Times reporting parts of eastern England and remote areas in Cornwall and Cumbria are expected to be allocated the lightest measures.
Meanwhile London was expected to go in Tier 2 along with the majority of the country.
Each area will be placed into one of three tiers when lockdown ends on December 2 - but the system has been toughened from the previous regime, meaning more authorities will move into the higher tiers with tweaked rules.
Areas which make progress in slowing the spread of the virus could still be moved down a tier before Christmas, however, with the first review of the allocations due to take place by December 16.
Mr Hancock said: "Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice made by people up and down the country, we are able to move out of national lockdown and into more targeted local, tiered restrictions
"I know for those of you faced with Tier 3 restrictions this will be a particularly difficult time but I want to reassure you that we'll be supporting your areas with mass community testing and extra funding.
"By following the rules together we can get out of these tough measures."
The Department of Health said decisions on tiers would be 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 will also be taken into account, as will local pressure on the NHS.
The final decisions will be made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Covid Operations Committee, the Government confirmed.
Areas placed in Tier 3 will be offered support from Test and Trace and the Armed Forces to deliver a six-week rapid community testing programme, making use of rapid lateral flow tests which give results within an hour.
The imposition of tiered restrictions will likely cause friction between local leaders and the Government, but ministers insist it is vital to act quickly to stop the spread of the virus instead of negotiations for days or weeks.
Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram said he hoped the area - which was the first to enter the highest tier last time - would not return to Tier 3 restrictions.
He said: "The progress we've made since we were put in Tier 3 is remarkable - we've gone from having two areas with infection rates of about 750 per 100k to 180 across the city region."
Neighbouring area Greater Manchester is "more likely than not" to enter Tier 3 as well, conceded mayor Andy Burnham.
He said although infection numbers in Greater Manchester were still high, the rates were falling.
He added: "If things continue in this direction at the rate at which we are seeing change in Greater Manchester, I would want to ask the Government for a serious review of Greater Manchester's position at the first review of tiering arrangements which is scheduled to take place two weeks from now."
Meanwhile, Lancashire's council leaders have submitted a proposal to the Government to divide the county into two different Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas.
In London, mayor Sadiq Khan said it would be the "right and sensible decision" for the capital to be placed in Tier 2 as he warned that Tier 3 would be a "hammer blow" to businesses.
It comes just days after the Government set out its plan for Christmas, with three households allowed to meet for five days but urged to exercise caution by limiting the number of contacts.
Government figures showed a further 696 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, with the UK total now standing at 56,533.
A further 18,213 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported on Wednesday.