Covid: London, Essex and York among areas to move up to ‘high alert’ Tier 2

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Large parts of England, including London, are moving up to the 'high' Covid alert level - also known as Tier 2 - as coronavirus cases rise on a "steep upward path".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that, along with the capital, Essex, York, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash will all have their coronavirus restrictions tightened from 12.01am on Saturday.

In each area, indoor household meetings will be banned, on top of the restrictions already in place.

  • What are the new Tier 2 restrictions?

People living in these areas are urged to "reduce the number of journeys where possible".

In all of these places, cases are doubling in less than a fortnight, Mr Hancock said, with cases doubling every ten days in London.

The health secretary said discussions are "ongoing" with local leaders in Greater Manchester and Lancashire on moving them up from the high alert level (Tier 2) to very high alert (Tier 3).

"In other areas currently in the second tier where discussions are ongoing, no further decisions have yet been made but we need to make rapid progress," he said.

  • ITV News Correspondent Stacey Foster was live in York:

Which areas are moving into Tier 2?

  • London (all 32 boroughs and the City of London)

  • Essex (the area covered by Essex County Council only)

  • Elmbridge

  • Barrow in Furness

  • York

  • North East Derbyshire

  • Chesterfield

  • Erewash

The latest changes mean half of England's population will now be in either Tier 2 or 3. Liverpool City Region, with 1.6 million people, remains the only area currently in Tier 3. A further 26.7 million people will now be covered by the Tier 2 restrictions.

Greater Manchester had been expected to move into Tier 3 - meaning all hospitality venues except restaurants would be closed and indoor household mixing would be banned - but a call between Greater Manchester leaders and Downing Street officials concluded with no agreement being reached on new restrictions.

There will be further meetings later today.

Labour's Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, said there was "unanimous fury" about the process, evidence base and economic support packages on the table during the talks.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said there was unanimous agreement among Tory and Labour MPs on the call that they would "support evidence based interventions with adequate financial support".

"We will not support this chaos," she added in a tweet.

Council leaders in England's North East agreed following a meeting that they will oppose the any plans to place the region in Tier 3 restrictions, Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said.

The leaders of Northumberland, Newcastle, South and North Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham held a meeting at 10am and agreed their opposition, stating that the current set of measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus were working and needed more time, Mr Gannon said.

Covid tiers: What are the differences between each alert level?

  • Medium (Tier 1) - Rule of six applies indoors and outdoors. Pubs and restaurants close at 10pm.

  • High (Tier 2) - Households must not mix indoors in any setting including pubs and restaurants. Rule of six applies outdoors

  • Very high (Tier 3) - Households must not mix indoors, or in private gardens. Rule of six applies in outdoor spaces including parks. Pubs and bars which don't serve meals will be closed

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said "final conversations" with ministers are still ongoing but the capital will move into Tier two, meaning indoor household mixing will be banned from midnight Friday.

Mr Khan called for immediate financial support for affected businesses, local authorities and "vulnerable Londoners struggling to get by".

Leaders from each region had been locked in talks with ministers in a bid to secure extra funding for their respective areas but in public the government has been resisting pressure to announce more support.

MPs and scientists have been critical of the tiered approach, saying the restrictions do not go far enough to stop the spread of coronavirus and have been calling for a "circuit breaker" lockdown instead.

But the government is committed to a "targeted" approach, Mr Hancock said, adding "local action is at the centre of our response".

He said coronavirus is rising "exponentially" in the UK and warned "things will get worse before they get better but I know that there are brighter skies and calmer seas ahead."

The Health Secretary said: "We must act now. Delayed action means more deaths from Covid, it means more non-Covid deaths and it means more economic pain later.

"Because the virus comes down slower than it goes up. So we should stop it going up in the first place and, unless we suppress the virus, we cannot return to the economy we've had.

"Unless we suppress the virus, we cannot keep non-Covid NHS services going and, unless we suppress the virus, we cannot keep the elderly and the vulnerable safe and secure."

Watch Matt Hancock's statement in full: