Boris Johnson has unveiled tough new local lockdowns that will see millions of households banned from mixing with each other indoors and hundreds of pubs in Liverpool shut their doors for four weeks from Wednesday.
The Prime Minister announced the measures alongside a three-tier Covid alert level system, which will see different parts of the country placed in different categories dependent on rates of infection, with areas in the highest level facing the toughest restrictions.
The first alert level, which is medium, covers most of the country and consists of the current national measures, such as the rule of six and the closure of hospitality at 10pm.
The second alert level, which is high, “reflects the interventions in many local areas at the moment”, the Prime Minister said. This level bans the mixing of households or support bubbles in any indoor setting, however separate households can meet outdoors and in private gardens providing that the rule of six is followed.
Areas already under restrictions will automatically move into the high alert level, and as a result of increasing infection rates, Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire and a small area of High Peak will also move into the high alert level.
According to a list released by Number 10, the Greater Manchester, Warrington, Derbyshire, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North East, Tees Valley, West Midlands and Leicester areas all fall under Tier 2.
The very high alert level – the most severe on the system – will “apply where transmission rates are rising most rapidly and where the NHS could soon be under unbearable pressure without further restrictions”. In these areas, social mixing indoors and in private gardens will be banned and pubs and bars will be closed.
“We want to create the maximum possible local consensus behind this more severe local action,” Boris Johnson said. “So in each area we will work with local government leaders on the additional measures which should be taken. This could lead to further restrictions on the hospitality, leisure, entertainment or personal care sectors.”
However, retail, schools and universities will remain open in these areas.
Mr Johnson confirmed that local authorities in the Liverpool City region will move into the very high alert level from Wednesday, and pubs and bars will also be closed. Gyms and leisure centres, betting shops, adult game centres and casinos will also close.
Negotiations between the Government and local leaders are currently underway to put further areas in the North West, North East and Yorkshire the Humber into Tier 3.
MPs will debate and vote on the measures on Tuesday and the new tiered system will come into effect on Wednesday.
It comes after data presented on Monday morning by England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and NHS England’s Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, showed that cases in the North West and North East are continuing to rise at levels faster than the rest of England.
However, Prof Van-Tam said that it is of “significant concern” that “in a matter of days” cases have increased across the country as a whole and are “reaching down into a further land mass and to the South of England”, and to the elderly.
The North West and North East and Yorkshire are seeing the fastest rise in hospital cases, with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust experiencing the steepest increase. The Trust now has more than 250 Covid-19 patients in its beds.
Prof Powis added that the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have been asked to “mobilise in the next few weeks” to be ready to accept patients if necessary. Regular testing for NHS staff in high-risk areas will also be introduced, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own devolved governments and separate health systems. Pubs across central Scotland closed for just over two weeks to try to cut close-contact transmission, and there is a ban on hosting other households indoors across the country.
Here’s everything we know about the local lockdown restrictions.
What is the three-tier system?
Local lockdowns are to be automatically triggered by a three-tier Covid alert level system, which divides the country into different areas based on local infection rates, which will dictate the severity of local lockdowns.
It will work alongside the NHS Test and Trace app, where people scan a special QR code to enter and exit pubs, restaurants and bars. The app will send a message to the user about lockdown conditions when the coronavirus risk profile changes.
In England, there are currently zero areas in the UK that are considered low risk by the new app.
England will be divided into one of three tiers, each of which will have predetermined restrictions.
Tier one, or medium alert level, covers most of the country and consists of the current national measures, such as the rule of six and the closure of hospitality at 10pm.
Tier two, or high alert level, bans households or support bubbles from meeting each other indoors. However separate households can meet outdoors and in public gardens providing that the rule of six is followed.
Tier three, or very high alert level, bans social mixing indoors and in private gardens altogether, and bars and pubs will be closed as a baseline. However, the Government will decide with local authorities on whether further measures, including further restrictions on the hospitality, leisure, entertainment and personal care sectors. Retail, schools and universities will still remain open in these areas.