Toughened Covid-19 ‘tiers’ after lockdown could threaten family Christmas
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Coronavirus restriction tiers may have to be strengthened after England comes out of lockdown, a government expert has warned.
Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England advisor on Covid-19, said the lower tiers had been less effective at reducing cases – and that the government should consider toughening them up until a vaccine can be implemented.
Tier 1, she said, had shown 'very little effect'.
A toughening of tiers could mean more restrictions on households mixing from early December, as families across the country hold on to hope for Christmas with loved ones.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Dr Hopkins said the higher tiers appeared to be working well before the second lockdown was introduced.
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"We have recognised that the tiering of the country has had a different effect in each area," she said.
"Tier 3 – and especially tier 3 plus in the north – has had an effect of reducing the number of cases in the north west, and we can see north west's declining number of cases declining now."
But she warned tier 2 was only working in some areas – and tier 1 was hardly working at all.
She said: "Tier 2 seems to hold in some areas and not so well in others so really it depends on how fast transmission is occurring and how well the individuals in the population are taking that advice in.
"We see very little effect of tier 1.
"And I think when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone."
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Under tier 1 rules, the 'rule of six' applied to gatherings, pubs and restaurants were open with a 10pm closing time and other businesses like shops, gyms and hairdressers were open.
There were no travel restrictions, overnight stays were allowed and weddings, funerals and worship were allowed with restrictions.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it is too early to know the impact of the second lockdown in England on coronavirus cases but he hopes measures can be eased on December 2.
He told the Downing Street press conference: "It is too early for us to know what the number of cases will be as we come to the end of the current lockdown.
"At the moment, most of the tests we're getting back, and most of the positive cases, are from around the time the lockdown came in, so we are yet to see in the data – and it's too early to expect to see in the data – the impact of the second lockdown.
"But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before."
Dr Hopkins added: "We expect if the lockdown is working … that we will start to see cases decline over the next week.
"We expect it will be longer to see hospital admissions, another week or so, but I think as long as we start seeing cases decline then we can start making a judgment about what are the right decisions that we make and what the opening up decisions that happen on December 2."