England to be divided into three-tier local Covid alert areas

11 October 2020, 22:30 | Updated: 11 October 2020, 23:08

A three-tier Covid alert area system will be introduced in England
A three-tier Covid alert area system will be introduced in England. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

England will be divided into "medium", "high", or "very high" local Covid alert areas as part of a new three-tier system, Boris Johnson will announce on Monday.

Each classification will determine the "appropriate interventions" that will be used in an area to curb local outbreaks of coronavirus.

It comes following a meeting on Sunday between the prime minister and his Cabinet colleagues where they discussed the new measures.

The government has been working with local leaders to establish which areas will be subject to the strictest alert level and which restrictions would be needed in those areas, Downing Street said.

Mr Johnson is set to chair a Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) meeting on Monday morning where the government will "determine the final interventions" before he makes an announcement in the Commons.

MPs will then be given the chance to debate and vote on the new system later this week.

Read more: Liverpool 'facing Tier 3 lockdown' - closures for pubs, bars and gyms

Read more: Manchester MPs write to PM in protest at plans for three-tier Covid rules

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus and these measures will help achieve that aim.

"We must do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services that so many people rely on.

"This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus."

Mr Johnson spoke to Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotherham on Sunday, No 10 said, during which they talked about how to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the area.

The Downing Street spokesperson said: "They discussed the huge challenge from rising numbers of Covid cases in the region and pledged to work together on combatting the virus."

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However, Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool city region, said in a statement: "Since Friday, myself, and the leaders of our local councils have been in dialogue with the government.

"Government have been clear from the start that they plan on placing the Liverpool City Region in tier 3 and plan on announcing this tomorrow.

"Whilst we have asked for the evidence to support that decision, none has been forthcoming. Throughout, we have been clear that new restrictions must come with the financial support to protect local jobs and businesses.

"No agreement has yet been reached on this point and negotiations are ongoing. As in all these things, the devil will be in the detail. A deal is not a deal until it is agreed."

Elsewhere, Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser to the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, started legal proceedings to challenge the restrictions on hospitality and entertainment venues across the north of England.

He said: "There is currently no tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure of the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

"Our discussions and ongoing calls for evidence have been ignored and we have therefore been left with little choice but to escalate the matter further.

"Supported by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, we have now engaged lawyers to begin a Judicial Review into the legality of the emergency restrictions due to be imposed on the hospitality and entertainment sectors."

No 10 stressed the extent of discussions with local leaders over the weekend following criticism from some northern authorities and mayors that not enough consultation had been taking place since the coronavirus crisis began.

Downing Street said that senior No 10 advisers and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick held discussions with local authority chiefs and mayors from "the highest areas of concern".

The spokesperson said: "Government representatives thanked the significant contribution of local leaders in the response to the virus, and reiterated the importance of their roles in helping to shape the package of measures for areas with high prevalence as the country continues to work together to tackle the coronavirus epidemic.

"Discussions were held on how government and local authorities could also work together to mobilise communities, volunteers and the public sector to help increase the effectiveness of NHS Test and Trace."

The prime minister will also hold a press conference in Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty on Monday.

No 10 said there would also be a "public data briefing" in Downing Street on Monday morning with deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam and representatives from the NHS.

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