More tears over tiers: Rising number of Covid-19 cases are set to dash hopes of locked down areas being given more freedom

  • The overwhelming majority of areas are expected to remain in their current level
  • PM had raised the hopes of some MPs that their areas would move down a tier
  • A total of 246 out of 315 local authority areas recorded a week-on-week increase 

Hopes that some regions might be moved out of the highest coronavirus tiers ahead of Christmas look set to be dashed today.

The overwhelming majority of areas are expected to remain in their current level of restrictions when the results of the first review are announced.

Despite hopes that some places such as Leeds and Greater Manchester could be downgraded, figures suggest the overall coronavirus rate is rising across England.

Boris Johnson had raised the hopes of some MPs that their areas would move down a tier on the first review date when he originally set out the plans for the controversial system.

The overwhelming majority of areas are expected to remain in their current level of restrictions when the results of the first review are announced. Pictured: People in London before tier three restrictions 

But cases have continued to rise, with London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire having been moved up a tier.

The news is likely to be met with anger by Tory MPs. Many are concerned by the economic damage of the stringent restrictions, particularly in Tier Three, where hospitality businesses are forced to close. Meanwhile, barely anywhere in the country is in Tier One – the only level under which household mixing is allowed indoors.

Many MPs and business leaders have also been disappointed by the lack of official assessment of the economic costs of the tier system and have called for a radical rethink of the entire strategy.

But cases have continued to rise, with London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire having been moved up a tier. Pictured: Students in Soho, London 

The tier review will take place today, and any movements will most likely be confirmed tomorrow.

Figures yesterday show Covid-19 cases are rising in more than three quarters (78 per cent) of all local areas in England in the past week.

A total of 246 out of 315 local authority areas recorded a week-on-week increase in the seven days to December 11, according to Public Health England.

This includes every borough of London, 42 of the 45 local areas in eastern England, and 66 of the 67 local areas in south-east England.

Figures yesterday show Covid-19 cases are rising in more than three quarters (78 per cent) of all local areas in England in the past week. Pictured: Drinkers in London before tier three restrictions 

In north-west England, where rates had previously been falling across almost the whole region, the latest figures show they are up in nearly two-thirds of areas.

When he unveiled the current tier system at the end of November, the Prime Minister said: ‘By using these tougher tiers and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale… it should be possible for areas to move down the (tier) scale to lower levels of restrictions.’

But Tory MP Steve Baker, leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptics, said: ‘The current strategy to combat Covid clearly isn’t working. If it was, we would today be talking about areas moving down the tiers.

A total of 246 out of 315 local authority areas recorded a week-on-week increase in the seven days to December 11, according to Public Health England. Pictured: Drinkers in Soho, London

‘We must end the devastating cycle of repeated restrictions and lockdowns, recapture the public’s support and confidence and start living in a sustainable way again.’

It had been hoped that Leeds might be downgraded to Tier Two after Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted at this on Monday. Hilary Benn, the Labour MP for Leeds Central, said cases had fallen from more than 400 per 100,000 to fewer than 140.

Greater Manchester was also hoping to be moved down a tier. Mayor Andy Burnham said the region had a ‘strong case’ to come out of Tier Three.

Greater Manchester was also hoping to be moved down a tier. Mayor Andy Burnham (pictured) said the region had a ‘strong case’ to come out of Tier Three

But Government sources said that the review would take into account local authority areas and regions, rather than individual cities and towns.

Mr Hancock also wrote to Tory MPs to tell them any greater breakdown of areas was difficult, ruining the hopes of tens of thousands of residents in low-infection towns and villages who had hoped they could ‘de-couple’ from surrounding coronavirus hotspots.

A Government source said: ‘As the PM set out in November, we will review every local authority area and each region against the five indicators we published in our Covid Winter Plan. We will also consider local views to build the most accurate picture of what is happening on the ground.’  

…but Sunak rejects bailout for hospitality

By Daniel Martin Policy Editor

Rishi Sunak will reject a plea by London’s mayor for a bailout for the capital’s hospitality industry after it was plunged into Tier Three.

Sadiq Khan demanded extra support for pubs and restaurants amid fears 150,000 jobs could be lost in London after it was placed under the most severe restrictions.

He called on the Chancellor, pictured, to put a compensation scheme in place, guaranteeing to make up all lost income for the festive season based on last year’s returns.

Rishi Sunak (pictured) will reject a plea by London’s mayor for a bailout for the capital’s hospitality industry after it was plunged into Tier Three

But the Treasury said Mr Sunak had already announced support for hospitality firms and the funds on offer would not be increased.

A source said: ‘We’ve put in place £280billion worth of support in this pandemic to protect millions of jobs and businesses. The furlough scheme has been extended through to March and businesses can apply for grants and Government-guaranteed loans as well as enjoying VAT holidays and business rates relief.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday that he was forced to put London into Tier Three along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire in a bid to slow ‘sharp, exponential rises’ in coronavirus across all ages.

UKHospitality warned that 150,000 jobs could be at risk if pubs and restaurants were forced to close in the capital.

Sadiq Khan (pictured) demanded extra support for pubs and restaurants amid fears 150,000 jobs could be lost in London after it was placed under the most severe restrictions

Theatre bosses said the new rules – which will also force them to close venues – will prove ‘devastating’.

Mr Khan said: ‘I don’t want London to be in Tier Three for a day longer than necessary. I am hugely concerned about the negative impact that the additional restrictions will have on jobs and many businesses that are already struggling to stay afloat.

‘We now urgently need much more government support for the sectors of our economy that are being hit the hardest, including hospitality, culture, and leisure.

‘It is crucial that ministers urgently put in place a compensation scheme for all lost income, based on last year’s returns, for any businesses affected by the further restrictions during this crucial festive period.’

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