New tier system labelled 'unfair' as two thirds of England faces tougher rules

27 November 2020, 11:24 | Updated: 27 November 2020, 11:30

Millions of people will be living under stricter Tiers
Millions of people will be living under stricter Tiers. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The new coronavirus tier system was today being labelled "unfair" and "authoritarian" after it emerged nearly two thirds of England's population will be living under tougher Covid restrictions after lockdown.

Sixty-one per cent of the country's population will be living under tougher Tiers than they were pre-lockdown.

Many MPs voiced their rage after it emerged that 99 per cent of the country is to be placed in the top two tiers of restrictions from next week.

Roughly 29.5 million people are being moved up one level, while 4.6 million have been bumped up by two.

Just 1.8 million, or 3% of the population, will have their rules relaxed.

There was bafflement that areas with low infection rates are facing tougher controls - including a ban on social mixing indoors - than before they went into lockdown last month.

It comes after Boris Johnson ramped up measures yesterday despite evidence suggesting the R rate is falling in the UK.

Boris Johnson revealed the new Tier system on Thursday
Boris Johnson revealed the new Tier system on Thursday. Picture: PA

The Prime Minister was bombarded with fury from all sides last night as he forced swathes of England into tougher restrictions.

Angry MPs lashed out at the Prime Minister's move, with rumours of a Tory revolt on the horizon.

Up to 70 MPs placed into Tier 3 areas are said to be furious at the move, with many saying they will vote against he tough new measures in Parliament on Tuesday.

Read more: Commons Speaker furious that Tier rules were posted online before MPs told

Read more: 'Your tier is not your destiny' says PM as harsh restrictions unveiled

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green said there is "a lot of anger on the Conservative benches."

"I know colleagues in Dorset are very annoyed and our colleagues in Lincolnshire are very annoyed and and quite a lot in other areas where the the incidence is very low."

"People here feel obviously everyone has been behaving properly and observing the guidelines and all of that," he said.

"The reward is we went into the lockdown in Tier 1, we come out in Tier 3, which has just made people think 'Well, what was the point of this lockdown?'"

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, the powerful group of Tory backbenchers, has been vocal in his disagreement with the new tier system.

He said: "I will vote against it. I have severe reservations on so many different levels. I do think that the policies have been far too authoritarian."

Read more: Covid lockdown postcode checker: Check your area's coronavirus alert level and tier restrictions

Read more: What are tier 3 rules and restrictions and what areas are in it?

And Conservative MP for Bournemouth East Tobias Ellwood tweeted: "With only 160 cases per 100k I’m puzzled to see us placed in this tier which will cause further hardship for our hospitality industry.

"I will NOT be supporting the Gov’s motion to introduce this next week."

Liam Fox and John Penrose, former ministers, hit out at the "illogical" decision to place their Somerset consistencies into Tier 3 because of their closeness to Bristol.

Speaking to LBC, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick explained how the Tiers were decided and said the governemnt has presented a "balanced judgement".

Speaking to Nick Ferrari, Mr Jenrick said: "We have designed a new set of Tiers learning from the old ones. Tier 2 and 3 are slightly tougher than they were before, but with good reason, as the evidence suggests that the previous Tiers were not quite strong enough to ensure that we were tackling the virus.

"It's very important if we don't want another national lockdown that we follow this, We have reviewed each decision against the five tests that the Prime Minister set out including the rate of infection in an area, the impact upon the over 60s and the effect on the NHS.

"As a result we have come to a balanced judgement about which part of the country should be in each Tier."

However, his sentiment is not shared by the people of Kent, who have branded the restrictions "unfair."

There was dismay at putting the whole county into Tier 3 when there are huge discrepancies in the infection rate across the area.

Two Kent boroughs - Swale and Thanet - have the two highest rates of Covid-19 infection in England, however many other areas have rates lower than the UK average.

One resident in Sittingbourne told LBC: "I'm disappointed, not so much worried but definitely disappointed."

Another said it's "not going to be a good Christmas," saying Tier 3 is "like a prison".

Twitter users have also slammed the decision, with one writing: "So Kent, like a lot of England, are in Tier 3. No surprise there really. What gets me is that this Tier system is so broad sweeping. To my knowledge there are three main areas of infection in my County but we all have to suffer...."

"How has Kent gone from tier one pre second lockdown to tier three post lockdown," questioned another.

A third user echoed their sentiment, saying: ""Good Lord, Kent. We went into the second lockdown in Tier One and we're emerging in Tier Three."

And with parts of the county bordering Tier 2 areas, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale told Sky News he feared people would "skip over the boundary" to go to visit a pub.

Nick Ferrari questioned Robert Jenrick over this, saying: "The numbers don't balance up, why is Tunbridge Wells being penalised?"

Mr Jenrick replied: "One of the things we've had to consider is whether or not to break up areas into very small units. We have assessed every part of the country individually but we've also looked at whether it's sensible to have one town in one tier and another town not so far away in another.

"When we've done that in the past we've learnt that very quickly the virus can just spread."

It is a similar situation in Devon, where the council leader of the district with the lowest Covid-19 infection rate in England has described it as a "slap in the face" to be put into Tier 2.

Alan Connett, leader of Teignbridge District Council, said he was "hugely disappointed" for the area, which has the lowest rate of infections in England over the last seven days.

The county of Devon has been placed in the second highest level of restrictions, partly due to pressure on local NHS resources, despite having low instances of Covid-19/

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted: "Anyone explain why Devon with Covid-19 rates below 100 per 100,000 has been lumped in with Plymouth and Torbay with higher rates, which seems to have pushed us into Tier 2 rather than Tier 1, when elsewhere councils have been treated differently?"

And Devon County Council leader John Hart, who is chair of the county's local outbreak engagement board, said: "Devon has done well so far in keeping case numbers relatively low and I would like to thank everyone for their actions during the latest lockdown, so I'm disappointed that we have been placed in Tier 2."

Twitter users have argued against the decision to place Tier 2 under such stringent restrictions, saying it is "illogical".

"My family are in tier 1 (Cornwall), I'm literally 10 mins away over the Tamar Bridge in tier 2 (Devon). They can all meet indoors for dinner but I can't go.

"Some of them work in busy Devon offices and go back-and-forth, yet I work home alone. It's illogical!" argued one user.

"I can see Tier 1 (Cornwall) from my windows... I'll be in Tier 2 (Devon) when lockdown ends... the grass really is greener on the "other side," pointed out another.

On Friday, Boris Johnson acknowledged people's "frustrations" but said the measures were "necessary to get coronavirus down."

"I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area. I totally understand why people feel frustrated," he said during a visit to a public health laboratory in Wiltshire in a pooled clip for broadcasters.

"The difficulty is that if you did it any other way, first of all you'd divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions - there has got to be some simplicity and clarity in the way we do this.

"The second problem is that, alas, our experience is that when a high-incidence area is quite close to a low-incidence area, unless you beat the problem in the high-incidence area, the low-incidence area I'm afraid starts to catch up."

It comes after Boris Johnson warned there could be a new national lockdown in January if Brits don't follow the new tier rules.

He told the nation from a No10 press confernece: "Your tier is not your destiny - every area has the means of escape".

Mr Johnson also promised that "together we can get through this winter, suppress the virus, and reclaim our lives and all the things we love".

The rules for each area will be reviewed at least every 14 days, with the possibility of moving down a Tier if the rate of infection drops.

However, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said it would be a "mistake to make too many judgements too early".

He said that "hopefully in some weeks to come, more areas can go into Tier one" but that it would be an error to do that just before Christmas.

And he urged the nation to "be sensible" and "don't do stupid things" for their best shot at getting out of strict rules in the New Year.