Covid-19: Local lockdowns to be simplified with traffic light system

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports

The complex system of varying local lockdowns is to be simplified using a three tier traffic light system, as the government seeks to make coronavirus rules as easy to understand as possible.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said the new system, which will be launched on Thursday in England, will describe areas with no restrictions as green and areas in full lockdown as red.

For example, London, where there are no additional restrictions, would be green, the North East, where household mixing is banned, would be Amber and places with more restrictive measures - such as closed pubs - would be red.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking to reporters in central London, said the government wanted to keep local lockdown rules as "simple as possible" but did not confirm whether a three-tier system was about to be introduced.

"One of the difficulties in fighting the pandemic is you keep having to adjust the strokes you play, the shots you play, depending on where the virus is and the effect it's having in different localities," he said.

"It's certainly true, as Chris Whitty and others have said, that it seems more localised, this time than it was in March and April - that's how it has been anyway.

Suggesting a new system would soon be introduced, he said: "We will be taking steps as you can imagine constantly to keep guidance, keep advice as simple as we can.

"When there's more to say on that we will certainly be saying it, but for now it's follow the local rules in the areas which are under special restrictions, get on the website to look at what you need to do, but generally it's all the restrictions that you know."

Boris Johnson on the three tier traffic light system:

Ministers are simplifying the local lockdown system after several members of the Cabinet struggled to explain how the rules varied in different areas.

The PM was forced to apologise after he got rules in the North East wrong last week.

The government is also facing criticism over its Covid-19 testing regime after the highest ever daily increase of cases was recorded following a systematic error.

In what Cabinet minister Therese Coffey said was a "glitch", almost 16,000 people who were potentially infected with coronavirus may not have been told to self-isolate for at least a couple of days.

But Boris Johnson told reporters in central London he could not reveal exactly how many contacts had been missed.

"I can't give you those figures," he said, "what I can say is all those people are obviously being contacted and the key thing is that everybody, whether in this group or generally, should self-isolate."

Boris Johnson has been warning of a “tough winter” in the UK's battle against coronavirus. Credit: Number 10

On Sunday the official number of cases jumped past half a million after it increased by 22,961 due to the delay in reporting cases.

It means at least 502,978 people have caught coronavirus in the UK but the real total is likely to be much higher, with many people asymptomatic.

As a result, thousands of people who were potentially infected with coronavirus were not told to self-isolate for at least a couple of days and the infection may have been seeding more widely as a result.

Mr Johnson was speaking to broadcasters ahead of Rishi Sunak's first Conservative Party Conference speech as chancellor.

After less than a year in the job Mr Sunak has had to make some of the biggest decisions faced by any British chancellor in decades as he brought in financial support packages designed to help the UK weather the storm of coronavirus.

In his speech at the Tory conference, which is being held virtually this year due to the pandemic, Mr Sunak told members the economy is undergoing significant change as a result of the crisis.

He stressed that he cannot protect every job, admitting "the pain of knowing it only grows with each passing day".

Mr Sunak committed himself to "a single priority" as chancellor to "create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can".

"We will not let talent wither, or waste, we will help all who want it find new opportunity and develop new skills," he said.

Mr Sunak also paid a "heartfelt tribute" to the prime minister, the man who elevated him from Treasury minister to chancellor when his predecessor Sajid Javid stepped down.