More areas of England likely to enter Tier 4 in the New Year

22 December 2020, 08:19 | Updated: 22 December 2020, 08:35

Oxford Street in London after the capital entered Tier 4 at the weekend
Oxford Street in London after the capital entered Tier 4 at the weekend. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

England is set to go into a New Year lockdown after the Government’s chief scientific adviser said cases of the mutant strain of Covid are now appearing “everywhere”.

The rest of the country is expected to join London and parts of southern and eastern England when the Tier system is reviewed on December 30, with the changes coming into effect on January 1.

London and the South East was rushed into the new Tier 4 lockdown regime at the weekend after existing Tier 3 measures proved inadequate to control the spread of the more infectious variant.

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Scotland and Northern Ireland have already announced new lockdowns from Boxing Day while Wales' tough restrictions will only be eased for Christmas Day before being reimposed.

And at Monday’s Downing Street press conference, Sir Patrick Vallance indicated a lockdown may be needed in wider areas of England, particularly as Christmas mixing may result in an increased spread of cases.

He said: "The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it's more transmissible, we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place.

"I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it's likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also refused to guarantee that schools in England will reopen after Christmas, saying "we want, if we possibly can, to get schools back in a staggered way at the beginning of January" but "the commonsensical thing to do is to follow the path of the epidemic".

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) met again on Monday to consider the new variant and said, while it does not appear to alter the course of the disease, it does spread more easily.

"That again reinforces the point that it's important to get ahead of this and to make sure that the tiering system is adequate to stop things going, and not to watch it and react in retrospect," Sir Patrick said.

Given the "inevitable mixing" over Christmas "I think there will be some increases in numbers over the next few weeks", he added.

It comes as the Government said a further 215 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, while there had been 33,364 more lab-confirmed cases as of 9am Sunday.

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