Matt Hancock WON'T introduce Covid Tier 5 for now as scientists and ministers pile on pressure for tougher lockdown

MATT Hancock today said he won't introduce Tier 5 for now – despite scientists and ministers piling on the pressure for a tougher lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Health Minister instead urged Brits to follow the rules in areas of high infection rates as hospitals face unprecedented demand for beds amid an increase in coronavirus cases.

Mr Hancock is today expected to plunge millions more Brits into tougher lockdown rules which will see shops, indoor activities, gyms and hairdressers shut to stop the spread of Covid.

But when pushed if he would introduce a level above the highest Tier 4 restrictions, he insisted: "I'm not announcing anything above Tier 4 today, no.

"We need to see, in Tier 4 areas, what is important is not just the rules but people taking that responsibility as they did during both the first and second national lockdown to try to get the rates under control."

Speaking to LBC Radio, Hancock said it was "so important" for people in areas of high infection rates – like London, Essex and Kent – to behave as if they had the virus.

It comes as…

  • Matt Hancock is expected to announce more restrictions for areas across the UK today
  • The Oxford vaccine has been approved and is expected to start being rolled out on Monday
  • A major incident at Essex hospitals has been declared amid growing patient numbers
  • Millions of kids could have their return to school delayed
  • The majority of coronavirus cases are due to the new strain

Government scientists have reportedly told Boris Johnson he needs to implement stricter measures to stop the virus from spiralling out of control as hospitals sit on the brink of being overwhelmed.

Health authorities have already warned more restrictions may need to be put in place after Brits not in Tier 4 areas were allowed to mingle for Christmas Day.

And the PM has not ruled out a third national lockdown as hospital patient numbers rise above the April peak while the death toll has passed 70,000.

Doctors have already urged Brits not to party on New Year's Eve to avoid the bug from spreading.

But a national lockdown has not been announced ahead as December 31 looms – with revellers having been spotted hitting the town the night before tougher restrictions have previously been announced for areas across the UK.

Boris Johnson already had to announce the second national lockdown in October after news of the new restrictions were leaked early.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday, Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, warned Britain is entering a "very dangerous, new phase" of the pandemic due to the new, more infectious strain of coronavirus.

Prof Hayward, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: "We're going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.

"A 50 per cent increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won't work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that."

Prof Hayward said he thought schools would have to return "maybe a little bit later" but that it would mean "we're going to have to have increased, strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that".

Areas at risk of moving up a Tier

Areas with the highest infection rates outside of Tier 4

Burnley: Tier 3, 465.6 cases per 100,000
Eden: Tier 2, 458.2
Pendle: Tier 3, 390.8
Northampton: Tier 3, 366.9
Hartlepool: Tier 3, 365.1
South Northamptonshire: Tier 3, 354.5
Carlisle: Tier 2, 348.7
Oadby and Wigston: Tier 3, 347.3
Lincoln: Tier 3, 344.4
Sandwell: Tier 3, 337.3

Millions of kids are set to have their return to school delayed because of the mutant Covid strain ripping through the nation.

Ministers are preparing to make their final decision which will be announced at 4pm today, as fresh coronavirus infections have rocketed out of control.

Primary school kids are expected to be able to return to class on January 4, along with vulnerable children and those of key workers.

Already nearly half of England are in the top Tier 4 – with an extra six million people moved there from Boxing Day.

Data from the ZOE Symptom tracker app has revealed that areas such as Manchester and Leicester could be pushed into a harsh Tier 4 lockdown as cases continue to rise.

Areas currently in Tier 2 could go into the toughest restrictions after soaring infection rates.

Regions with the highest rates currently outside of Tier 4 are Burnley, with 465.6 cases per 100,000 people, Tier 2 Eden in Cumbria, which has a rate of 485.2, and Pendle in Lancashire, with a rate of 390.8.

Nationally, Essex is the worst-affected region of England.


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