A new three tier local Covid alert system is now in force across England, as the country fights to bring infection rates back under control.
The new lockdown system came into effect on 14 October and has seen all areas of England divided into three categories - ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high risk’, based on the rate of Covid-19 infections.
Three tier Covid alert
Areas placed in the medium alert level (tier 1) are subject to the current national measures, including the rule of six and the 10pm hospitality curfew. Household mixing indoors is still permitted, provided the six person limit is not exceeded.
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In areas where the Covid alert level is high (tier 2), restrictions are similar to those that were previously implemented in areas under local lockdown. Rules state people must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place, such as pubs, bars and restaurants, and must not meet in a group of more than six outside.
Those in the highest tier, on very high alert (tier 3), are banned from meeting with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, but can meet in certain outdoor public spaces in groups of six or less. These include:
parks, beaches, countryside, forestspublic gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them), allotmentsoutdoor sports courts and facilities, and playgrounds
Pubs and bars must also close in these areas, unless they can operate as a restaurant, in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission. Possible further restrictions on hospitality, leisure, entertainment or personal care sectors may also be put in place if needed, but retail, schools and universities will remain open.
Currently, the Liverpool City Region remains the only area in England to be put into the ‘very high’ alert category, but several other cities could be at risk of being moved into this tier.
Which areas could move into tier 3?
Greater Manchester could potentially be moved into Tier 3, but so far a bitter political row has prevented tougher restrictions being enforced.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Thursday (15 October) that he wanted to see “rapid progress” on the issue as Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has been resisting Tier 3 restrictions, which would see pubs and bars forced to close unless they can operate as restaurants.
A call between Greater Manchester leaders and Downing Street officials has so far failed to reach an agreement on new restrictions, but there will be further meetings later on Thursday (15 October).
Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle and parts of Lancashire are all said to be at risk of being plunged into a stricter tier 3 lockdown, as infection rates continue to climb.
During a media briefing on 13 October, Leeds City Council leaders said the current infection rate is 422 cases per 100,000 people, with cases rising across the city and the number of positive cases in hospitals doubling in the last week.
Council chief executive, Tom Riordan, said, "This is a really pivotal moment for us again and there is a prospect that we could go into tier 3.
"What we've got to do is make sure we are doing everything that we can, collectively and individually, to make sure that we are getting on top of the virus, and we also expect, from what the government has said, that we will have very much an equal conversation with them about what needs to happen and when.”
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver also said that a move into tier 3 is inevitable given the high rates of infection in most parts of the county area noting it is just “a question of when and how.”
Covid-19 cases in Nottingham are soaring, rising by 2,777 in the last week with an infection rate of 834.2 per 100,000 - almost double the week before.
Similarly, Newcastle’s growing infection rate - which is around 500 cases per 100,000 - could also see it moved into the higher tier of restrictions.
Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, has said the decision on whether to put an area in tier 3 would be decided on the number of infections as well as how fast the rate is climbing/ Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed the tier 3 lockdowns are crucial to stop NHS services coming under incredible pressure, leaving them unable to carry out essential services.
Has anywhere moved tiers yet?
A further 26.7 million people will be covered by the Tier 2 restrictions from Saturday (17 October), as London and other parts of England will be moved into the ‘high’ Covid alert level.
The capital, along with Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will move into the second tier of measures, which includes a ban on households mixing indoors, including pubs and restaurants.