Covid: More than 23 million people in England will be living under Tier 3 measures after lockdown lifts

Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Paul Brand

More than 23 million people in England – 41.5% of the population – will be living under Tier 3 measures once national lockdown ends on December 2 as the government set out its latest Covid-19 restrictions.

Large parts of Northern England will be placed under the toughest Covid restrictions under new regional tiers.

Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Blackburn and Newcastle upon Tyne are among the regions to be placed in Tier 3, but Liverpool City Region moves down to Tier 2.

Most of England, including London, has been placed under Tier 2 Covid restrictions once lockdown ends next week, with household mixing indoors banned and curbs on pubs and restaurants.

Kent, which was under Tier 1 restrictions before the month-long England lockdown, will be moved to Tier 3 following a spike in coronavirus infections.

ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman has reaction from Bradford - which will move from national lockdown into Tier 3:

Bristol and the West Midlands, including Birmingham will also be placed under Tier 3 measures until December 16 when tiers will be reviewed.

The government said cases in the Birmingham and Black Country were "improving" but the infections in these regions "remain very high (390/100,000)" and, with a "similar trend for positivity," pressure on the NHS was still too great to relax restrictions.

Addressing MP Matt Hancock said: “These are not easy decisions, but they have been made according to the best clinical advice”.

He told MPs: “Thanks to the shared sacrifice of everyone in recent weeks, in following the national restrictions, we have been able to start to bring the virus back under control and slow its growth, easing some of the pressure on the NHS.

“We will do this by returning to a regional tiered approach, saving the toughest measures for the parts of the country where prevalence remains too high.”

The five key criteria for accessing tiers:

1.     case detection rates in all age groups

2.     case detection rates in the over 60s

3.     the rate at which cases are rising or falling

4.     positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken)

5.     pressure on the NHS

The government published a list of areas setting out the tiers ahead of Mr Hancock setting out details of the tiers in a Commons statement.

The chaotic handling of the announcement saw an online postcode checker allowing people to check which tier their area would be , but it soon crashed.

In the written ministerial statement which contained the tier breakdown, the health secretary said: “The new regulations set out the restrictions applicable in each tier. We have taken into account advice from SAGE on the impact of the previous tiers to strengthen the measures in the tiers, and help enable areas to move more swiftly into lower tiers.”

  • Explained: New tier rules and how they will work

MPs are set to vote on the new tier system in the House of Commons next week, with up to 70 Tories potentially voting against the measures.

The Covid Research Group, which reportedly has 70 Tory members, said it would vote against the tier system if the government could not prove it would sufficiently bring down coronavirus levels.

If all 70 Tories rejected the motion, it could be enough to defeat the government, but with Labour expected to back the proposals, a loss for the prime minister is highly unlikely.

Iain Duncan Smith told ITV News he would like "the government explain how they’re going to bring people down the tiers."

"Will they look at things earlier than two weeks, as they’ve said they would, but earlier than maybe one week to look at this on a day to day basis? The reality is this is still tight, and it’s tighter than it was under tiering.

"And it’s going to be tight in the run in to Christmas and after, with the threat of a further lockdown, which we simply cannot sustain.”“I think this was the pound of flesh that was demanded by the scientists and medical advisors that, you know, yes you come out of lockdown but basically you’re going to need to lock down a whole bunch of areas.”

Mass quick turnaround testing has been taking place in Liverpool over recent weeks. Credit: PA images.

The tier categories have been tightened from the restrictions put in place in the autumn after government scientific advisers warned the previous measures had not been effective enough at controlling the virus.

Only three areas are being placed in Tier 1 - representing just 1.27% of the population - where restrictions are more relaxed, but strict measures still remain.

People living in Cornwall, Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight will be able to mix with six people indoors and outdoors, but people in these areas are still being urged to work from home if they can and pubs are limited to table service.

Greater Manchester Metro mayor Andy Burnham fought a battle with Westminster over funding for the city when it was put under Tier 3 measures before the November lockdown, earning him the title 'King of the North'.

Number of people in England in each tier

  • Tier 1: 713,573 (1.27% of the population)

  • Tier 2: 32,226,170 (57.25% of the population)

  • Tier 3: 23,347,218 (41.48% of the population)

Mr Burnham said he was “not surprised” the region would be placed into Tier 3 once again, but said he would be making the “strongest possible arguments” for it to be moved down to Tier 2 in a fortnight if good progress continues.

Under Tier 3 restrictions, households are banned from mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks. Bars and restaurants would be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people would be advised to avoid travelling outside their area.

Pubs will be able to reopen under Tiers 1 and 2 but they will be severely restricted. Credit: PA

What can you do in each tier from December 2? The new rules in England at a glance:

  • Tier 1: Up to six people can meet indoors or outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm.

  • Tier 2: No mixing indoors, apart from support bubbles. Up to six people can meet outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm - but alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.

  • Tier 3: No mixing indoors. People can only meet outdoors in limited places such as parks and public gardens. Pubs and restaurants must close, with the exception of takeaway sales.

In all tiers, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers and personal care services can open. People in all tiers to work from home where they can do so. Full details on what you can do in each tier here.

Most of country, including the capital, face Tier 2 restrictions that ban households mixing indoors, and pubs and restaurants can only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

London mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the Tier 2 rating for the capital but added: “There must be no complacency – we know how quickly this virus can spread.”

Merseyside’s leaders efforts in tackling the virus appear to have paid off as the region moves down to Tier 2.

Following the announcement, Liverpool City Council tweeted: “This wouldn’t have been possible without you, the people. From following restrictions to taking part in our #MassTesting pilot…”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region, tweeted that the move into Tier 2 was “vindication of the hard work, dedication and sacrifice shown by people across our region for the past two months”.

“These restrictions will still be tough for many local businesses and Covid remains a threat, so please stay safe,” he added.

Lancashire’s council leaders had submitted a proposal to the government to divide the county into two different tiers to reflect the varying degrees of infections across the region, but the whole region - along with much of the North West - is under Tier 3 restrictions from next week.

Newcastle has seen a steep rise in confirmed coronavirus cases Credit: PA Images

Political leaders in seven authorities in the North East of England urged people to carry on abiding by the rules so the Tier 3 restrictions could be eased sooner.

In a lengthy statement, the leaders in Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham said the four weeks of national lockdown had not “counted for nothing”.

They said: “Infection rates have dropped rapidly in recent days as the impact of lockdown takes effect and we are extremely grateful to all residents for making this happen.

“Your efforts have sustained capacity in critical care units, ensured treatments for many serious illnesses can continue, and critically, those who have become gravely ill with Covid-19 have been able to receive the best possible care.

“You have saved lives and protected the most vulnerable in our communities.

“However, infection rates do remain high and ahead of many other parts of the country."

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he was not surprised the region had been placed in Tier 3. Credit: PA

Tory MPs in Kent had lobbied the Prime Minister to not impose county-wide restrictions due to variations in case numbers.

“We must allow businesses to prosper and not be held back by restrictions not suitable for their area,” the group including former ministers Greg Clark, Damian Green and Tracey Crouch said.

Mr Green suggested that “unfair” restrictions will “not be respected or obeyed”.

Following the announcement, Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, tweeted that the Tier 3 restrictions in Kent were “potentially dire for our area”.

Earlier this week, prime minister Boris Johnson said rapid turnaround community testing would be made available in Tier 3 areas for six-weeks as part of the government's Winter plan.

“The system is untried and there are many unknowns but if it works we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions – for example meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative," he said.