reas in England that are “on the cusp of different tiers” could see their allocation change before Christmas, Robert Jenrick has said.
But the Communities Secretary told BBC News this morning that areas in England could see their tier allocation change in mid-December if the rate of coronavirus reduces in their area.
Mr Jenrick said: “There will be a review point before Christmas on December 16, so those areas which are on the cusp of one of the tiers, there’s every reason to believe that with a collective effort in those communities, they could come down a tier before Christmas.”
Earlier he told Sky News that the Government will consult with expert advisers to look at each local authority area and see whether there is potential to move down the tiers.
“There were a number of places which were quite finely balanced judgments where they were on the cusp of different tiers. Those are the places that are more likely to be in that position,” said Mr Jenrick.
“We have also got to bear in mind that there will be an opening over the Christmas period which is likely to drive some higher rate of infection if some people choose to go and meet family and friends on Christmas Day and the days surrounding it.
“Our overall approach is trying to insure the tiers hold the line and that places are in a process of de-escalation. What we don’t want to do is ease up too quickly and then find that in January we are having to put tiers back in place again.
“But there is every reason to believe that places could see a change at December 16-17 time.”
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday that “your tier is not your destiny”.
He also referenced the planned extension of mass community testing as a possible “escape” from the toughest measures.
But a Government source suggested areas would not move away from the tiered system until the new year, after the impact of easing restrictions at Christmas becomes clear.
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“I would not expect anyone to change tier until we’re into the new year,” a source told the Times.
Chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty also played down hopes that restrictions would be lifted before Christmas.
Professor Whitty said he would hope that “in some months to come, possibly in some weeks to come, we’ll be in a situation where more places could go into Tier 1”.
“But we should not do that until we’re confident because the experience of Tier 1 previously was, and it hasn’t really changed, is that if you’re in Tier 1, the rate starts to go up.”
Mark Harper, the former Conservative chief whip, expressed scepticism about the Prime Minister’s claim that “your tier is not your destiny”.
Mr Harper, whose Forest of Dean constituency is in Tier 2, tweeted: “Unfortunately, just after the PM said this, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said Tier 2 would only hold infections level, and Tier 1 would see them go up.
“That rather suggests if you’re in Tier 2, it is your destiny – at least until the spring.”
He referred to the comments made by Prof Whitty at the briefing, in which he said: “Tier 2 looks as if it’s strong enough to hold the line, so stop things rising, but not reliably to pull things down.
“Tier 3 we think based on previous experiences is strong enough to pull things down from a higher peak.”
The Prime Minister said the Government was returning to the tiers approach because it had been shown to have an impact when used last time.
He told the press briefing: “The tiered approach was delivering, it was slowing the virus down and that’s why a tiered, reasonable approach is the right way to go now.”
However, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the previous tier system did not manage to decrease the infection rate enough.
At the press conference, he said: “The message is that the tiers worked in terms of slowing but didn’t work in terms of flattening and reversing it.
“The national lockdown looks as if it has flattened it and is sending it downwards and it is important we do bring it down because numbers remain high.”