Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week refused to rule out the possibility of introducing a fourth tier of coronavirus restrictions in areas where the current rules fail to slow down the spread of the virus.
On October 12, the Government announced a tiered local lockdown system in England.
Tier one is the ‘medium’ alert level that currently applies to the majority of England. Tier two is the ‘high’ alert level that requires stricter measures, and tier three is the ‘very high’ alert level, one that warrants tighter restrictions still.
However, there is increasing speculation that a fourth tier could be introduced in the coming weeks.
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Which areas could go into a tier 4 lockdown?
If a fourth tier was to be created, the regions of England that are currently under tier three restrictions would be most at risk of going into a tier four lockdown.
Currently, the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, South Yorkshire, and Warrington are under tier three restrictions, with Nottingham and the midland boroughs of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe set to move from second tier to third tier rules on October 29.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said he would support a tier 4 level lockdown if the current restrictions fail to curb the virus.
He told BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘It has taken untold damage on people’s wellbeing and a huge toll on families where people have died. If anything was required to bring it down faster I would do that.
‘However, I want to make sure that we are giving tier three a chance to see if the measures have an impact.’
How could tier 4 differ to tier 3?
Under tier three rules, pubs and bars can only stay open if they’re also serving ‘substantial meals’.
Indoor household mixing is banned, as is household mixing in private gardens, however, up to six people from different households can meet outdoors in certain outdoor public areas, including parks, as long as they remain socially distanced.
Up to 15 guests can attend weddings and 30 people can attend funerals, with 15 allowed at wakes, but wedding receptions are not permitted.
People living in tier three areas are also being advised against travelling out of the area unless it’s for work, education, or caring responsibilities.
Under tier four rules, it has been reported that restaurants and non-essential shops could be forced to close, and travel outside the region could be banned rather than discouraged.
Professor Neil Ferguson, who orchestrated the nationwide lockdown in March, has also said that schools could close again for older students under a fourth tier lockdown.
‘[Banning households from mixing] should have a significant effect but as yet we have been unable to see it definitively,’ he told BBC Radio 4 this week.
‘If we go beyond that there is a limit to what we can do in terms of reducing contacts, short of starting to target, for instance, the older years in schools and sixth form colleges where we know older teenagers are able to transmit as adults.
‘Of course nobody wants to start moving to virtual education and closing schools even partially. The challenge may be that we are not able to get on top of the transmission otherwise.’
When will a tier 4 lockdown be introduced?
According to iNews, Whitehall sources have said a decision could be made by mid-November, when there will be enough data to assess how effective the three-tier system has been.
Matt Hancock, however, has been keen to stress that nothing has been decided yet, telling BBC Breakfast on Monday: ‘We’ve always said all along that we take nothing off the table. Having said that, we have seen the rise in the number of cases has slowed a bit.
‘The problem is it’s still going up, and while it’s still going up we’ve got to act to get it under control.
‘We rule nothing out but at the moment the three-tier system is what we’re working to and it’s effective in slowing the growth of this virus but it hasn’t brought this curve to a halt.’
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