The Government is set to take a fresh look at the tier allocations given to every local authority in England.
When all areas were placed into one of three tiers after the national lockdown ended on December 2, the Government said it would review the allocations by December 16.
Whatever the outcome of Wednesday’s review – the whole of England will enter into a different system for Christmas with distinct rules specifically in place to allow up to three households to meet over the festivities from December 23 to 27.
However, outside of the Christmas break – all areas will have to adhere to the tier rules they are under. The new classifications will be based on the number of cases in each area.
How will they be decided?
The Department of Health said decisions on tier levels are based on a number of factors, including case detection rates in all age groups and, in particular, among the over 60s.
How quickly case rates are rising or falling will also be taken into account, as will local pressure on the NHS, including current and projected capacity.
The final decisions will be made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Covid Operations Committee, the Government said.
The new rules will come into place on Saturday, December 19, should regional rules change.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said there is “every reason” to expect some areas could be moved into a lower tier in the first fortnightly review.
Protect the NHS
Since then, NHS bosses have warned that relaxing restrictions could trigger a third wave of coronavirus at the busiest time of year for hospitals.
In a letter to the Prime Minister published on Saturday, NHS Providers urged “extreme caution” in moving any area of England to a lower tier, according to reports by the BBC.
And they urged that areas should be moved into the highest tier of restrictions “as soon as this is needed, without any delay”, according to the letter from NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England.
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After a sharp rise in cases in London, the capital looks likely to move from tier 2 to tier 3 with a devastating impact on the economy.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote to Boris Johnson on Sunday requesting for an immediate increase in Covid-19 testing provision across the capital in response to the rising number of infections.
He warned that moving London from tier 2 into tier 3 would have a “catastrophic” economic impact on businesses and put “hundreds of thousands of livelihoods at stake”.
On Friday, Birmingham’s hospitality sector said it would consider taking the Government to court if tier 3 controls continue in the city, the leader of its biggest entertainment district has said.
Mike Olley, who runs the Westside Business Improvement District (BID) which is the biggest nightlife area outside of London, said a group of mainly restaurateurs are mulling a judicial review bid.
Birmingham was placed in the highest tier of controls in November, meaning many pubs, bars and restaurants had to remain closed after the end of the second national lockdown.
Boris Johnson told MPs at the Commons vote on December 1 that tiers would be decided on a more “granular” basis after the review in mid-December, raising hopes among backbenchers in areas which have low infection rates but are included in tier 2 and 3 restrictions.
Currently only Cornwall, Isles of Scilly and Isle of Wight are in tier 1.