Areas moving out of Tiers 2 and 3 anytime before next year is reportedly unlikely as the impact of the Christmas relaxing of rules will need to become clear first.
Boris Johnson has said “every area has the means to escape” after opting to thrust England into a much harsher tier system from December 2, but cold water has already been thrown on his promises.
More than 55 million people face Tier 2 or 3 coronavirus restrictions as the PM warned any easing off could lead to a third wave and another national lockdown.
Some of the highest rates of Covid-19 in the UK will see large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West plunged into Tier 3 amid concerns over rising hospital admissions.
While all but a handful of rural areas will be placed in Tier 2 – with the tier system set to remain in place until March, a year after Britain was first put in lockdown.
Only 714,000 people living in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight will be in the most lenient Tier 1, where the rule of six applies indoors and out.
He said that the harsher measures would “open a path for areas to move down the scale, as soon as the situation improves”, pointing to mass testing being the key to “accelerate that moment of escape”.
However, one Government source told the Times: “I would not expect anyone to change tier until we’re into the new year.”
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, also put the dampeners on the prospect of widespread easing prior to Christmas, arguing “almost certainly anywhere that goes into Tier 1” will experience a rise in cases”.
He said the Government could only risk dropping areas into the bottom tier if they’re “very confident indeed” with winter being a notoriously difficult time for the already stretched NHS.
Professor Whitty added that only when vaccines are rolled out next year could the country “little by little” begin to “walk out of this down the tiers”.
With all of Britain set to see an easing of restrictions from December 23 to 27 for Christmas, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to review tiers on December 16 and then every two weeks.
The likes of London managed to avoid Tier 3, but Mr Hancock warned – rather than a chance of Tier 1 – there was a “lot of work to do in London to keep it in Tier 2”.
The Office for National Statistics said that the East Midlands was the only region where cases were still rising and Public Health England said that rates were falling in every age group.