More Tier 3 areas could move to Tier 4, Health Secretary suggests to LBC

4 January 2021, 10:48

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

More parts of the country currently in Tier 3 could be moved up to Tier 4 due to rising coronavirus rates, Matt Hancock has suggested on LBC.

Speaking on Nick Ferrari's morning show, the health secretary said the current Tier system will soon be reassessed following increasing Covid-19 infections across England.

"There are some parts of the country, currently in Tier 3, where the rates are going up fast and we'll review that soon," Mr Hancock said.

Asked whether he agreed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that another immediate national lockdown was necessary, the minister told LBC that extra measures are "likely".

"We can see that the number of cases is rising sharply and the prime minister has clearly said, and he said it yesterday, it's likely we're going to need some more measures," he told Nick.

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"There are areas of the country that are currently in Tier 3 where cases are rising really quite sharply, but it's not just about the measures that we introduce... it's actually about all of us.

"It's on all of us to act in a way that reduces the spread. And this new variant is really, really difficult... and is spreading fast.

"We've all got to be incredibly careful. Act like we have the disease and that way you won't pass it on. That's true in Tier 4 areas as well."

Nick also asked Mr Hancock what life might look like in Tier 5 - a prospective measure widely reported as being considered but not officially in the government's current plan.

"We haven't got any proposals for a Tier 5," the health secretary replied.

"But clearly these Tier 4 restrictions have had to be brought in in large parts of the country."

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No10's key "Covid-O" committee, which oversees restrictions, was expected to meet on Monday to decide changes to the system, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

The paper quoted a government source as saying ministers were looking at subjecting more areas of England to the toughest Tier 4 measures, which already cover a total of 44 million people - or 78 per cent of the population - after changes that came into effect on Thursday.

After Boris Johnson signalled tougher restrictions would be brought in within weeks, pressure mounted on ministers to act more swiftly as Labour demanded a lockdown within hours.

Opposition leader Sir Keir accused the prime minister of presiding over a "chaotic" response to the coronavirus pandemic as he insisted on new restrictions immediately to try to regain control of the situation.

The Labour chief told reporters the PM should not hint at new restrictions within weeks but, instead, act now.

He said: "The virus is clearly out of control.

"We can't allow the prime minister to use up the next two or three weeks and then bring in a national lockdown which is inevitable.

"Do it now. That's the necessary first step to get the virus back under control."

In response to the comments, a No10 source said: "The prime minister has been consistently clear that we are driven by the need to protect the NHS and save lives - unlike Labour who have spent the last ten months playing party politics.

"We have moved more areas into Tier 4 to bear down on the new variant and escalated other areas into Tier 3. This targeted approach is the right one, and is kept under review based on the latest data."

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