Tier system may 'need to be strengthened' over Christmas, health chief says

16 November 2020, 18:18

Dr Susan Hopkins spoke at the Downing Street press conference
Dr Susan Hopkins spoke at the Downing Street press conference. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Tier system may need to be "strengthened" after lockdown finishes to "get us through the Winter months", a Government scientist has said.

Epidemiologist Dr Susan Hopkins told a Downing Street press conference: "We see very little effect from Tier 1.

"And when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we'll have to think about strengthening them to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also said it is "too early to know the impact of the second lockdown in England on coronavirus cases" but he hopes measures can be eased on December 2.

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He told said: "It is too early for us to know what the number of cases will be as we come to the end of the current lockdown.

"At the moment, most of the tests we're getting back, and most of the positive cases, are from around the time the lockdown came in, so we are yet to see in the data - and it's too early to expect to see in the data - the impact of the second lockdown.

"But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before."

England is currently under national lockdown until December 2, with an expectation that the country will return to the three tier system in place prior to lockdown.

Boris Johnson has argued that the four-week lockdown is needed to prevent an "existential threat" to the NHS and said he expects England to return to a local tiered system when the measures end on December 2.

However, Dr Hopkins suggested that once the country is out of lockdown, strict measures could remain in place.

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Dr Hopkins added: "We expect if the lockdown is working ... that we will start to see cases decline over the next week.

"We expect it will be longer to see hospital admissions, another week or so, but I think as long as we start seeing cases decline then we can start making a judgment about what are the right decisions that we make and what the opening up decisions that happen on December 2."

It comes as the Covid Recovery Group, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, could humiliate Boris Johnson if he announces the need to extend the current lockdown in England, with the Prime Minister being forced on Labour votes to get any such plan over the line.

The group is now understood to have grown substantially since its launch last Wednesday with numbers close to around 70 MPs.

At the same press conference, it was announced that the Government has signed a deal for five million doses of the Moderna vaccine, of which preliminary studies have claimed has 95% success.

The UK will have access to five million doses of the Moderna vaccine if it is approved, the Health Secretary announced.

The firm has claimed a 94.5% effectiveness against the illness for the vaccine, although it is not expected to be available in the UK before spring 2021.

The Health Secretary said the preliminary results for the vaccine were "excellent news".

"Although I stress that this is preliminary, the safety data is limited and their production facilities are not yet at scale," he added.

"Across diagnostics and vaccines, great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue.

"While there is much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame.

"But we're not there yet. Until the science can make us safe we must remain vigilant and keep following the rules that we know can keep this virus under control."