More of England is heading into Tier 4 on New Year’s Eve.
As with so many days recently, today brings good news and bad news. On the one hand, the long-awaited Oxford vaccine has received approval from health regulators, and will begin vaccinating people against Covid-19 from Monday. On the other hand, Health Secretary Matt Hancock – speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon – has revealed that more parts of England will enter Tier 4 restrictions from 00:01 tomorrow (December 31) . With coronavirus cases rising at often alarming rates across the nation, and hospitals under severe pressure once more, the tightened restrictions had been widely expected.
Moving to Tier 4 on New Year’s Eve are: Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Northampton, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, and Cheltenham. These are just the major cities heading to Tier 4, as other more suburban and rural areas are moving up at the same time – you can see the full list here.
In Tier 4, we’re asked not to leave our homes for non-essential reasons, enter or leave Tier 4 areas, or meet anyone outside of your household or support bubble indoors.
Several areas are moving up to Tier 3, including Liverpool, Cornwall, Devon, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Bath & North East Somerset – in fact, by tomorrow morning, no part of England will remain in Tier 2 (only the Isles of Scilly won’t be in Tier 3 or 4, as the remote islands remain in Tier 1). The fast-spreading mutant strain of Covid-19, which came to wide attention earlier this month and caused some 60 countries to ban flights from the UK, has driven the soaring case load in the past couple of weeks and led to the tightened measures. The tier update comes as the UK set a grim record on Tuesday – at over 53,000 new infections, it was the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, a “major incident” has been declared by local authorities in Essex, as health services in the county are close to being overwhelmed.
Today’s update to the tier system had been rumoured to include a new, stricter ‘Tier 5’, or perhaps news of a potential New Year lockdown, both of which had been bandied around in the press over the past few days. No such measures have come to pass, but Hancock did not rule out stricter measures in future if the case load continues to rise. For their part, the Independent Sage group of scientists has called for an immediate lockdown in a bid to stave off further sharp rises in cases.
Hancock pledged to get the vaccinations moving more quickly with the approval of the Oxford vaccine, saying that “everyone who wants one can get a vaccine”. However, until a major section of the population has been vaccinated, the tier system remains essential – and it’s Tier 4 for even more of us to start 2021.
Also published on Medium.