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Tiers escalated for much of England

Published:  17 December, 2020

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced that large swathes of England will go into Tier 3 this weekend, as infection rates re-climb towards their April peak.

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey (omitting Waverley), Hastings and Rother, Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant will all be placed in Tier 3 under the updated rules.

Only two areas, Bristol and North Somerset, will now be moving down from the highest tier when the changes come into effect at one minute past midnight on Saturday 19 December.

Herefordshire will move from Tier 2 to Tier 1.

The changes come as infection rates continue to climb to the highest number the UK has seen since 22 April.

Speaking in parliament this morning, Hancock said: “We must be vigilant and keep this virus under control. Yesterday, 25,161 cases were reported, and there are 18,038 people in hospital with coronavirus in the UK. We must keep suppressing this virus. And this isn't just a matter of a government or for this house, it’s a matter for every single person.”

“No one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary. But where they are necessary, we must put them in place… We’ve come so far, we mustn't blow it now,” he said.

The Tier 3 restrictions for much of England is another blow to hospitality businesses in Tier 2 which have gone to great lengths to remain open while remaining Covid-secure.

Under Tier 3 rules, pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close apart from delivery and takeaway services.

According to reports, hospital admissions reached a month-long high on 14 December, with over 23,000 cases recorded. This is the highest the number has been since 16 April. The number of people in hospital with Covid is now the highest since 22 of April.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow secretary of state for health and social care, used these numbers to question why households were being given licence to mix indoors at Christmas.

“This isn’t about cancelling Christmas. Santa will still deliver his presents. But is [Hancock] really telling us that allowing indoor mixing of three households across regions and generations for five days is sensible, given the virus is raging with such ferocity at the moment? And the devastating tragedy is that those who will be most impacted by this virus spreading through the easing, are those who will be at the front of the queue for the vaccine in the next month or two,” he said.