‘North Norfolk is not Manchester’ - how three-tier coronavirus restrictions would work

Prime minister Boris Johnson could announce a return to a national lockdown as earlier as next week.

Prime minister Boris Johnson could announce a return to a national lockdown as earlier as next week. Picture: Ben Stansall/PA Images. - Credit: PA

Pubs, gyms and casinos will be forced to close in areas labelled as highest risk in a new three-tier system to be announced by the government to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick. Photo: Archant Library.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick. Photo: Archant Library. - Credit: Archant

Prime minister Boris Johnson will spell out his three-tier strategy later today, with areas in England labelled as medium, high or very high risk, which will inform the “appropriate interventions” needed in each area.

Norfolk, where the rates of Covid-19 cases are relatively low, compared to the England average for the past seven days of 145 cases per 100,000 people, is unlikely to have such harsh measures at this time.

But it would pave the way for such restrictions to be imposed should rates increase.

Merseyside is expected to be among the areas subjected to Tier 3 restrictions - but there is still disagreement about a financial support package for the area should harsh measures be imposed.

Knowsley and Liverpool are in the top three for infection rates in England - at 669.5 per 100,000 people and 598.5 respectively.

In the seven days to October 8, the areas reported nearly 4,000 new cases.

By comparison, in Norfolk, Norwich had the highest rate in the seven days up to October 7 of 75.4 cases per 100,000 people - driven in large part by the number of University of East Anglia students testing positive in the voluntary tests organised by the university and the Earlham Institute.

MORE: Explained: What is behind the increase in Norwich coronavirus cases?

Great Yarmouth, where a rise in rates sparked a plea from council leaders and health experts for people to take extra care, has a rate of 72.5 cases per 100,000, down on the previous seven days when it stood at 87.6 cases per 100,000.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has cited North Norfolk’s low rates (it had 28.6 cases per 100,000 in the seven days up to October 7) as a reason why the three-tier system is needed.

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Speaking on Sky News, he said the number of cases were significant, but it was also important to take into account the number of people in hospital and the nature of infections.

He said: “Though the number of cases is rising rapidly across the country there are still huge variations.

“If you go to North Norfolk the latest statistics showed that the number of cases is around 19, if you go to Manchester it’s well over 500.

“So, it is right that we pursue a localised approach.

“That must be the way forward because none of us want to see a return to blanket national measures - that would be the alternative.”

East Suffolk, including Lowestoft and Beccles, is currently on the coronavirus ‘watchlist’, after a surge in positive cases.

In the seven days to October 7, 46 people tested positive for Covid-19, equivalent to 30.9 cases per 100,000 people, taking the cumulative number to 1,073.

The prime minister will hold a press conference in Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty later today.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus and these measures will help achieve that aim.

“We must do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services that so many people rely on.

“This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus.”

Number 10 stressed the extent of discussions with local leaders over the weekend following criticism from some Northern authorities and mayors that not enough consultation had taken place since the Covid crisis began.

Downing Street said senior Number 10 advisers and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick held discussions local authority chiefs and mayors from “the highest areas of concern”.

The local authorities have also expressed concern about the impact of harsher restrictions on their own finances, with the statement saying they are existing “hand to mouth”.

What are the new three-tier local Covid-19 restrictions?

The new three-tier system of local lockdown measures to curb rising Covid-19 rates for England will be announced by the prime minister.

What is happening?

Different parts of the country will be split up into “medium”, “high” or “very high” local coronavirus alert areas under the new system Boris Johnson is expected to announce.

It comes after the prime minister held a telephone conference with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday to discuss the situation and ongoing negotiations with local leaders in the north of England.

What do the tiers mean?

The three tiers represent an advancing scale of local restrictions.

Tier one restrictions are thought to be the baseline restrictions in place across England, including a 10pm hospitality curfew and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.

Tier two restrictions are expected to be similar to rules currently in place in Middlesbrough and parts of the North East, where indoor mixing of households is not allowed.

Two households may be allowed to meet in a private garden, as long as the rule of six and social distancing are followed.

Many details are yet to be confirmed but leaders in Liverpool said pubs and bars, betting shops, casinos, and gyms would close under the third “very high” tier restrictions, while reports also suggest people will have to avoid all non-essential travel and to not travel between areas.

According to Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, these restrictions are expected to last for four weeks at a time.

Which areas may be placed into tier three?

It is not yet clear how an area will be placed into a tier, or to what extent regulations will be written and enforced locally.

However, Nottingham continues to have the highest rate in England, with 2,763 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 8 - the equivalent of 830.0 cases per 100,000 people.

This is a huge jump from 314.5 per 100,000 in the seven days to October 1.

Nottingham City Council expects a local lockdown to be imposed on Monday, with councils in the area asking residents to not mix with people outside of their households or bubbles.

What about elsewhere?

Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has climbed from 485.9 to 669.5, with 1,010 new cases, and Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has increased from 504.4 to 598.5, with 2,981 new cases.

However, on Sunday evening Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said negotiations were ongoing with the government, which intends to put Liverpool into the third tier.

He said: “We have been clear that new restrictions must come with the financial support to protect jobs and businesses.

“A deal is not a deal until it is agreed.”

What has the response been?

The government has said it is working with local leaders to decide which areas are covered by the third tier, as well as determining the right response for the specific area.

However, Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese previously said there was a “large gulf” in discussions about new restrictions.

What happens next?

Many of the details of how the tiers and the specific measures in each area will be negotiated and enforced are currently unclear.

On Monday, the prime minister will chair a meeting of the Government’s COBR committee to finalise what will be announced in Parliament.

He will later host a press conference at Downing Street where he will be joined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

Downing Street said MPs would be asked to debate and vote on the three-tier measures.

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