Warning over lockdown end: you could be in a higher tier when we emerge says UEA professor

  • Watch an interview with Professor Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia

An expert has issued a warning to areas in the East who might be expecting to exit lockdown back into tier 1, saying they could end up in a higher tier.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, says that while he's more optimistic about our future following the news of a vaccine, he would expect more people to find themselves in something resembling tier 2.

He said: "We had a reasonable degree of freedom in our part of the world and to be honest we weren't seeing a dramatic rises in case numbers so maybe we'll be able to get back to something like that but probably with some differences."

Alot of local authorities that were in tier one were and still are seeing exponential growth. I think a lot of local authorities that were in tier 1 will probably move back into tier 2 or similar and those who were in tier 2 could see a move back into tier 3.

Professor Paul Hunter, UEA

Last night Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock was unable to rule out an extension to the lockdown as a health chief warned the tiered system that ministers want England to return to may have to be strengthened.

He said it was “too early for us to know” whether coronavirus cases will be brought down sufficiently to ease the second shutdown on December 2.

Boris Johnson hopes the nation will return to local restrictions, but Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins – standing alongside Mr Hancock at the Downing Street press conference on Monday – said the lowest tier of earlier measures had had “little effect”.

A potential obstacle could be some people's reluctance to accept a vaccine. Credit: PA

Professor Hunter said he was more optimistic about our future following news of a second effective vaccine announced yesterday.

The UK has already secured 40 million doses of a vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, which uses the same technology as Moderna and should be in the UK before Christmas.

But the Government did not place orders with Moderna at the same time and a Government spokesman said the jab would not become available until “spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest”.

Professor Hunter said that while the lockdown end remained unclear, businesses were more equipped to reopen this time round.

"Nothing can ever be totally Covid secure, but people are more used to working in a relatively covid secure environment."

On the efficacy of the tier system, Professor Hunter said that he saw some benefit to the higher restrictions.

"The sort of situations we were in in tier 3 seemed to me to be having a positive impact where they were."

Meanwhile, the latest weekly figures show that there are now more than 100 positive coronavirus tests per 100,000 people in every county in the Anglia region.

Overall the infection rate in the Eastern Counties is 158 cases per 100,000 which remains lower than the England rate of 271 cases per 100,000.

However, the weekly rate in Northampton passed the national rate when it reached 291 last week. There were 654 positive tests for coronavirus in the town in the week to 11 November, an increase of 27% compared to the previous week.

Across the Anglia region there were 11,439 positive tests for Covid-19 in the week to Wednesday 11 November compared to 8,664 in the previous seven days. That represented a weekly increase of 32% while cases rose by just 10% across England as a whole.

Everything you need to know about Coronavirus Credit: ITV Anglia