Robert Jenrick explains to LBC why the whole of Kent was placed into Tier 3

27 November 2020, 08:23 | Updated: 27 November 2020, 08:51

By Asher McShane

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick today explained why the whole of Kent has been placed into Tier 3, the strictest of the country's coronavirus measures, despite varying rates of covid-19.

Nick Ferrari challenged the minister on air at breakfast today highlighting that Tunbridge Wells in Tier 3 has a rate of infection per 100,000 of 117.9, but Havering in London is in Tier 2 with 342.9 and Basildon in Essex has a rate of 275.6 according to the latest figures.

"These numbers don't balance up, why is Tunbridge Wells being penalised?" Nick asked.

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.

Read more: PM faces Tory rebellion over covid lockdown Tiers

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

More than 55 million people will be placed into Tier 2 and Tier 3 measures when the second national lockdown ends on December 2, meaning mixing between households indoors will effectively be banned for the vast majority of the country.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - accounting for little more than 1% of England's population - face the lightest Tier 1 coronavirus restrictions.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West and Kent are in the most restrictive Tier 3, which accounts for 41.5% of the population, or 23.3 million people.

Tier 3 measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as in parks.

In these areas, bars and restaurants will be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people will be advised to avoid travelling outside their area. Shops and schools will remain open in all tiers.

In Kent there was dismay at putting the whole county into Tier 3 when there were discrepancies in the infection rate across the area.

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.

The Government has promised to publish an impact assessment of the measures before MPs vote on them on December 1, following complaints economic harm and the knock-on health impacts of restrictions were not being properly considered - a point made by the Covid Research Group formed of lockdown-sceptical Tories.

The Prime Minister, due to visit a science laboratory in Wiltshire on Friday, told a Downing Street press conference that "your tier is not your destiny" and cited the planned extension of mass community testing, as seen in Liverpool, as a possible "escape" from the toughest measures.

A review of the tiers is scheduled for December 16 but the Times reported the Government is not expecting to make any changes until the new year.