Boris Johnson announces three tier Covid lockdown restrictions for England

  • Video report by ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston

Three new Covid alert levels - medium, high and very high - have been brought in to "simplify" local coronavirus restrictions, with the Liverpool City Region placed under the toughest measures.

The prime minister set out the measures in a statement in the House of Commons and in a briefing from Downing Street.

The prime minister set out further details in a Downing Street briefing on Monday evening

Despite Covid-19 levels rising across the UK, Boris Johnson said he does "not believe a full national lockdown would be the right course", as he explained the new tier system.

Some parts of the Liverpool City Region from Wednesday, will enter the 'very high' alert level, which will see hospitality venues ordered to close - among other restrictions.

ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt speaks to businesses in Liverpool ahead of the local lockdown:

The prime minister indicated he wants other parts of the North East and North West to be put under the 'very high' alert level but pointed to resistance from local leaders.

Metro mayor Steve Rotheram, city mayor Joe Anderson and the leaders of Liverpool City Region’s six local authorities said in a joint statement said they have been "in dialogue with high level Government officials" to negotiate a package of support for people in the region.

Pubs and other areas of hospitality in Liverpool City Region will close from Wednesday. Credit: PA

The statement said: “Since we were first informed by the Government that, in response to the high and rising Covid-19 cases in the City Region, they would be placing the Liverpool City Region onto new Tier 3 restrictions, it was made clear to us that government would be doing this regardless of if we engaged with them or not.

“We share the Government’s grave concerns about the increasing pressure on our hospitals and remain absolutely committed to working with the Government to drive down the spread of the coronavirus and the number of Covid-19 cases.”

The joint statement continued: “For anyone who has been in any doubt about the gravity of the situation we face if we do not bring cases down, the preparations announced this morning to step up the North West NHS Nightingale Hospitals may now be a wake-up call.

“It is therefore now as important as it has ever been that we do everything we can to contain the virus, protect our NHS and save lives.

“However, we want to be clear that there are some things upon which we have been able to agree with the Government, but others where we do not, such as the level of the furlough scheme.”

The local leaders said they “welcome the opportunity” to get support from the armed forces to halt the spread of coronavirus, adding: “These measures will be supported by a specific package of financial support to deliver this for our City Region, covering a six-month period and not dependent upon the Tier position of our City Region.

“In addition to this, we have secured an assurance from the Treasury that in coming to that national position, no Local Authorities placed on Tier 3 restrictions will be put in a position where they are unable to balance their budget this year or to set a legal budget next year. Further discussions will take place as a priority over the coming week.”

Regulations will be laid in the Commons on Monday and voted upon on Tuesday, Mr Johnson added before insisting the measures will be kept under "constant" review.

Mr Johnson told MPs that the coming weeks and months would "test the mettle" of the country as it faced a second wave of Covid-19 cases.

Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have hinted they're considering joining England in implementing the tier system.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she will look at the new system "very closely" and Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said a tier system was being considered, as was a national lockdown.

Sage scientist Professor Calum Semple warned the new restrictions had come too late and a “circuit-breaker” could be needed within weeks.

Asked if the level of response announced for London is sufficient for the threat, the University of Liverpool academic told BBC Radio 4’s PM: “I’m going to be difficult and say no, I think we’re a little late to react.”

He said there is a three-to-four-week delay before interventions see benefits in hospitals.

“I and other people who were advocating for quite stringent severe local interventions where necessary three to four weeks ago, our fear is now that we’re in another place now,” he said.

“And that we’re going to need a much firmer intervention perhaps, the so-called circuit-breaker, in the matter of weeks.

“The outbreak is a bit like a super-tanker, you put the brakes on but it takes a long time before you see the effect.”

  • ITV News presenter Tom Bradby has the latest Covid figures:

The 'very high' alert level:

Under the 'very high' alert level will mean, at a minimum, the closure of pubs, bars and other hospitality venues except restaurants.

Local leaders and the government will decide whether further restrictions should be enforced, such as the closure of casinos or tourist attractions.

Cross-household socialising will be banned in all settings, including private gardens, except outdoor public places such as parks, where the rule of six will apply.

There will also be guidance for people to avoid all but essential travel in and out of areas in the 'very high' alert level.

Bars and pubs can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant - which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal.

Alcohol can still be served under the 'very high' alert level but it must be purchased with a meal.

Areas under the tightest restrictions will have them reviewed every four weeks.

From Wednesday, in the Liverpool City Region, all hospitality venues except restaurants will be ordered to close, as well as gyms, leisure centres, bookies and casinos.

Non-essential retail, schools and universities will remain open in all alert levels.

The 'medium' alert level:

The 'medium' alert level will be applied across England in areas where there are no additional coronavirus restrictions, leaving the rule of six and hospitality curfews as the base level restrictions.

Mr Johnson said most local lockdown areas in England will be placed into the 'medium' alert level automatically.

Nottinghamshire, East and West Cheshire and a small area of High Peak will move into the 'high' alert level, along with most other local lockdown areas.

The 'high' alert level:

Under the 'high' alert level indoor household mixing will be banned but people will still be able to meet outdoors, so long as it is in a group of six or less, and hospitality venues will be allowed to remain open.

There is advice for people to minimise their journeys if they live in an area of 'high' alert.

The PM said the 'high' alert level primarily aims to reduce household to household transmission, by preventing all mixing between different households or support bubbles indoors.

Criticisms of the tier system

Sir Keir Starmer said he is "sceptical" whether the Government has a plan to get control of the virus.

He added that it increasingly feels as if Mr Johnson is "several steps behind the curve".

The Labour leader said: "I have to say to the Prime Minister, I am now deeply sceptical that the Government has actually got a plan to get control of this virus, to protect jobs or retain public trust."

He added: "So can the Prime Minister tell us, what reassurance can he give us that these measures today will be sufficient to get the virus under control? "

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram agreed with the government that his area would go into a strict lockdown but said his calls for more support for workers had been ignored.

Despite the new tier system being implemented to simplify restrictions, they have already been criticised for causing confusion.

Level three restrictions can vary depending on decisions made between local leaders and the government, meaning different areas under level three could have different restrictions.

For example, from Wednesday, casinos will close in Liverpool, but that may not be the case when other areas enter level three.

And there has been no explanation as to what the requirement for each alert level will be.

Mr Johnson said infection rates will be used to determine what alert level an area is placed under, but Downing Street said the final decision will be a human one rather than it being triggered by a threshold being passed.

A postcode checker will be launched on the Government's website to advise people what guidance applies to their area.

MPs in the north of England criticised government communication on the tier system as a "shambles" after some said they were not invited to briefings affecting their region.

Labour MP for Wigan Lisa Nandy tweeted: "Just learnt Greater Manchester will be placed into tier 2 restrictions via twitter.

"Apparently there was a government briefing for GM MPs but I can't provide details because I wasn't invited.

"I suspect this is because they don't know where Wigan is. What an absolute shambles."

Watch Boris Johnson's statement on the new tier system in full: