Today’s Tier 4 update puts more of the nation into the tightest restrictions.
London became the first place in the UK to enter Tier 4 restrictions on Sunday, but as we’ve just learned, it won’t be the last. Speaking at a press conference from Downing Street this afternoon, Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that more areas of England – including parts of the south east, east, and south west – will join the capital and enter Tier 4 restrictions at 00:01 on Boxing Day (December 26).
Delivering the Tier 4 update, Hancock said “we’ve got to keep our resolve” and noted that “Tier 3 is not enough to control the new variant”. New areas entering Tier 4 on Boxing Day are as follows: Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, all parts of Essex not already in Tier 4, Hampshire (excluding the New Forest), and the borough of Waverley in Surrey. Meanwhile, many Tier 2 areas will be moved up to Tier 3, including Bristol, Swindon, Somerset (including North Somerset), Gloucestershire, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire, and Warrington. Finally, the few areas that were in Tier 1 – Cornwall and Herefordshire – will move up to Tier 2 at the same time. Hancock said he was “truly sorry for the disruption it causes”.
The current R rate in England stands at 1.3, with cases up 57% in the last week – similarly, cases in London have doubled in the past week, with 600 cases per 100,000 recorded in the capital. It’s thought to be a result of the mutated variant of Covid-19, a more contagious variety which originated in south-east England and has led to many countries cancelling flights from the UK earlier this week. As I’m sure you’re aware by now, the rising caseloads have also forced a change to Christmas arrangements, with household mixing forbidden in Tier 4, and restricted to just Christmas Day for the rest of England.
Hancock also revealed that there’s another new strain of Covid-19 for the nation to deal with. Two cases of a third variant of coronavirus, thought to have originated in South Africa, have been discovered in the UK. As a result, Hancock said that the government would quarantine those who’ve tested positive for this variation, along with their close contacts, and impose immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa. He also stated that anyone in the UK who’s been in South Africa in the past fortnight (and close contacts of anyone who travelled there) must quarantine immediately.
The new Tier 4 arrivals come as rumours continue to swirl about the possibility of a third national lockdown in the New Year. Leading figures from the UK scientific community, including the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, have warned that a national lockdown may be necessary after the “inevitable mixing” over Christmas. For now, the UK government has stopped short of such a drastic step, instead opting to put more of the country into the highest tier – but one can’t help but wonder if it’s the prelude to a New Year’s lockdown…
Also published on Medium.