Tougher coronavirus restrictions could be imposed in England as part of a new three-tier lockdown if cases aren’t brought under control, according to reports
The closure of pubs and a ban on social contact outside household groups could be implemented locally or nationally to deal with soaring infections, now at a level higher than the first wave peak.
The UK has now had 503,000 confirmed cases of the disease, with record daily increases over much of the last fortnight which have if anything been under reported due to a ‘counting error’ by Public Health England.
According to leaked Government documents seen by The Guardian, the draft ‘Covid-19 Proposed Social Distancing Framework’ plan is designed to simplify the existing localised restrictions.
The plans have not yet been finalised and signed off by No.10 officials, however, and several of the measures could still be relaxed, according to the newspaper.
Schools are not mentioned in the draft, though visiting care homes could only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.
“Preventing household mixing and closing businesses and venues in which there is close social interaction was recommended as the best way to reduce R,” the documents state, on advice from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
Britain gradually came out of a national lockdown over the summer, but many areas including major cities such as Manchester and Glasgow are currently subject to local restrictions.
In an interview on Sunday, Boris Johnson denied a suggestion that the local restrictions were not working given infection rates were still rising in the affected areas and there was no end in sight to the measures.
The three-tier system is aimed at improving people’s compliance with the rules, the Guardian said.
The documents say many Brits do not have a clear understanding of the rules that apply to them.
The levels are intended to be ‘minimum standards’ and specific local circumstances would also be taken into account, the newspaper continued, citing a government source.
Three-tier system explained
Red alert – level 3
No social contact with anyone outside your household in any setting; hospitality and leisure businesses closed; amateur sports and hobbies banned
Amber alert – level 2
No social contact in private homes or gardens outside your bubbles; avoid visiting care homes; only make essential journeys
Green alert – level 1
‘Rule of six’ for gatherings; wear face masks in shops and pubs and on transport; 10pm curfew on hospitality; 15 people at weddings, 30 at funerals
Downing Street had last week announced a tightening of restrictions on socialising in northeast England, in response to high and increasing Covid-19 infection rates in the region – the latest in a series of local measures.
There are currently 50 different areas of England with overlapping restrictions, some legal and some guidance, and even the Prime Minister himself was unable to explain them last week.
No10 sources had previously confirmed officials were looking at a ‘traffic light system’ which would see places with the tightest restrictions, like Bolton, marked tier one.
Regions with less tough measures would be placed in tier two, and the rest of the country not under local lockdown placed as tier three.
It comes as Public Health England (PHE) admitted it missed out counting 15,481 positive coronavirus cases going back to September 25.
On Sunday, the total number of infections across the UK jumped by a record 12,872 with PHE blaming a ‘technical issue’ which led to a delay in cases being added to the dashboard.