- More parts of England could be in Tier 4 as the new variant of the coronavirus spreads across the country.
- The strictest lockdown rules could be extended beyond London and the southeast as soon as Boxing Day.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson will convene the Covid operations committee on Wednesday to discuss whether stricter measures need to be rolled out across the country to combat growing infection rates.
- Johnson’s government believes that the new variant is 70% more transmissible than the original variant.
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Millions more people in England could be placed under the strictest, Tier-4 lockdown measures as soon as Boxing Day.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will convene a meeting of the Covid operations committee on Wednesday to discuss whether stricter measures need to be extended beyond London and the southeast in a bid to curb rising infection levels across England which have been blamed on a new, more transmissible strain of the virus.
Hospitals across the country are nearly full after a significant rise in hospital admissions in recent weeks.
Robert Jenrick, the UK housing secretary, said this morning there was no “immediate plan” to take action but warned that the new variant of the coronavirus was now “prevalent in other parts of the country as well,” meaning the official review point for the tier system on December 30 could be brought forward.
Asked when further parts of England would be placed under Tier 4, Jenrick told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday: “We have our official review point but in light of the new variant we have been taking advice from the scientific advisors and the Covid operations committee chaired by the prime minister.
“It will meet in a couple of hours time to review that information and see whether any further steps need to be taken.”
He said: “I can’t prejudge that but we will be looking at the number of cases in all parts of the country and in particular what the variant is doing.
“We know it’s been very concentrated in London and the south-east but it’s also now prevalent in other parts of the country as well.”
Multiple reports have confirmed that ministers are considering introducing measures as soon as Boxing Day.
The Times of London newspaper reported that further areas including Rugby, Burnley, Lincoln, and parts of Sussex could imminently be placed under Tier 4.
Johnson put London and parts of south-east England under Tier-4 rules on Saturday after being briefed by scientific advisers that the new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, has said that the variant now accounts for more than 60% of new cases in London, England’s capital.
The UK recorded 36,804 new cases on Tuesday, according to government figures, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 222,199, a 61.2% increase on the previous seven days.
Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced national lockdown measures in a bid to curb an anticipated surge in infections. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has also said she may soon implement a full national lockdown.
Prime Minister Johnson said last week that he was “hoping very much” to avoid implementing another national lockdown but such measures may soon be inevitable.