A new fourth tier of restrictions could be heading for Lancashire and the rest of the North West, should the coronavirus infection rate not decrease by mid-November.
On Monday morning, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the Government would “rule nothing out” on the prospect of a new fourth tier of restrictions.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast he said: “We’ve always said all along that we take nothing off the table.
“Having said that, we have seen the rise in the number of cases has slowed a bit.
“The problem is it’s still going up, and while it’s still going up we’ve got to act to get it under control.
“We rule nothing out but at the moment the three-tier system is what we’re working to and it’s effective in slowing the growth of this virus but it hasn’t brought this curve to a halt.”
But what would an additional level of restrictions mean?
Recent reports are suggesting that Tier 4 restrictions may result in similar prohibitions currently seen in Wales and Scotland, where circuit breaker lockdowns have been implemented.
This could see:
- restaurants and non-essential retail such as clothes shops forced to shut
- schools closed for older pupils and those in sixth form colleges.
It is not known whether Tier 4 restrictions would mean gyms and leisure centres having to close, or whether the rule of six for outdoor public spaces would still apply.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, told BBC Radio 4 on Sunday: “Banning households mixing should have a significant effect but as yet we have been unable to see it definitively.
“If we go beyond that there is a limit to what we can do in terms of reducing contacts, short of starting to target, for instance, the older years in schools and sixth form colleges where we know older teenagers are able to transmit as adults.
“Of course nobody wants to start moving to virtual education and closing schools even partially.
“The challenge may be that we are not able to get on top of the transmission otherwise.”
Whitehall officials are understood to be considering and discussing Tier 4 restrictions if the current system hasn’t made a difference by the middle of November.
However, no official decision has been made, although short-term local circuit breaker lockdowns, like those in Wales and Scotland, are also said to be under consideration.
Those areas under Tier 3 restrictions will need to bring their infection rates down significantly before the restrictions are lifted.
Currently, Lancashire, along with Liverpool, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire are on ‘very high alert’ level under Tier 3 restrictions meaning:
- people cannot socialise with anyone they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor or outdoor settings
- pubs and bars are only allowed to remain open to operate as restaurants, which means alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal
- schools and universities remain open
- places of worship remain open but household mixing is not permitted
- weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people attending (15 and 30 respectively), but wedding receptions are not allowed
- exercise classes and sport are the same as in Tier 2 – they can take place outdoors and will be allowed indoors if appropriate social distancing measures can be put in place
- travelling outside, or entering, a Tier 3 area should be avoided unless for work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities, or if travelling through the area as part of a longer journey
- residents of a Tier 3 area should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, while people who live in a Tier 1 or Tier 2 area should avoid staying overnight in a Tier 3 area
- tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work
- the rule of six continues to apply to outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, public gardens or sports venues.