More areas in England face tougher coronavirus restrictions when the lockdown ends next week to fight the pandemic and reduce its spread.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in his first appearance in the House of Commons since going into self-isolation, announced that blanket restrictions in England will end after a month-long lockdown, to be replaced by a system of regional restrictions to try to insulate the worst-hit areas.
Large parts of the Midlands, North East and North West, including Manchester, as well as Kent, will face the harshest restrictions in tier three, the highest tier, which is for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections.
The city of London will be placed into the second highest Covid-19 risk category- tier 2- when the national lockdown ends, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“Hope is on the horizon but we still have further to go so we must all dig deep, the end is in sight, we mustn’t give up now,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament.
“We must follow these new rules and make sure that our actions today will save lives in future and help get our country through this,” Hancock said.
The decision has been keenly anticipated by businesses all across the country whose ability to trade in the pre-Christmas period will be affected. Hospitality is one of the large sectors which will suffer the most in higher tiers.
London, with its population of more than 8 million, will be in tier 2, described as ‘high alert’. The city was previously in tier 2 before the national lockdown was imposed, although a tighter set of rules for each tier was announced earlier this week.
For London, this means no mixing of households indoors and a maximum of six can meet people outdoors, hospitality venues can only offer alcohol alongside a substantial meal.
Most shops, restaurants and leisure businesses can open with restrictions, and audiences can return in limited numbers to theaters and sports stadiums.
A huge chunk of central and northern England, including the large cities of Birmingham and Manchester, will be placed in the top tier, where pubs and restaurants can only serve takeout and delivery, and leisure venues such as cinemas and bowling alleys must stay closed.
Shops, gyms, hairdressers and beauty parlors will be able to open across the country, however.
The decisions have been made according to five criteria, including the pressure on health services in each region and the rate of change in positive cases.
“While all three tiers are less stringent that the national lockdown that we’re all living in now, to keep people safe and to keep the gains that are being made, more areas than before will be in the top two tiers,” Hancock said.
Only three regions in England were placed in the lowest category: the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The government imposed a four-week lockdown in England early this month to curb an autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with travel restricted and nonessential businesses closed. The government’s statistics office says the infection rate appears to have leveled off, but Hancock said “we must remain vigilant.”
Tiers will be reviewed on Dec. 16, making it possible for areas that slow the spread of the virus to be moved down a tier before Christmas.
Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 56,000 confirmed deaths.
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports