TIER 4 may last until April or even longer, Boris Johnson warned last night.
The PM refused to say when he would be able to lift the draconian restrictions placed on three quarters of the country.
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It comes after another 20 million people were put into Tier 4 as of 00.01 this morning – meaning now nearly everyone is under Tier 3 or 4.
But it came on the same day the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab was finally given the green light for approval, meaning vaccinations can be sped up.
And ministers will prioritise everyone getting at least their first jab, before giving the follow-ups.
The PM was asked by ITV’s Robert Peston yesterday whether the UK could start lifting restrictions by April.
Previously Matt Hancock has suggested life can get back to normal by the spring.
He said: “That will depend on how fast we can get the virus under control with tough tiering, with testing, and with rolling out the vaccination programme.
“I am not going to give a deadline.
He warned that Brits may be in Tier 4 – where shops and restaurants are shut – for the long haul. But if the vaccine rollout can be sped up, then it may be lifted sooner.
The PM replied: “If the tiering can work to bring the virus under control, if the vaccine rollout proceeds fast enough and we’re able to inoculate to protect those most vulnerable, then there’s a world in which that date could be brought forward, who knows by how many weeks.
“That’s obviously what we are aiming for.”
Professor Chris Whitty has also said in the past he hoped things would start to lift from Easter.
Shops, indoor activities, gyms and hairdressers will be shut in Tier 4 to stop the Covid spread – and schools in the worst-hit areas are staying closed too.
People in Tier 4 can only meet with one other person outside – and have been told to stay at home unless they have a good reason to be out – such as exercise, school, work or medical appointments.
It came as:
- Secondary schools will stay closed for millions of kids until January 18, and primaries in hotspot areas too – sparking chaos and confusion across the country
- A Sage expert said England will probably be in a full lockdown by the end of January – but Gavin Williamson ruled out national action
- Boris said the Tiers system would likely last until April – but may be moved up if the vaccine rollout goes well
- Deaths reached nearly 1,000 yesterday – with 50,000 new cases
Mr Johnson said the UK would roll out the second Covid-19 vaccine approved for us “as quickly as we can”.
AstraZeneca said it could produce two million doses of the vaccine a week.
Areas changing Tiers
To move into Tier 4:
- Leicester City
- Leicestershire (Oadby and Wigston, Harborough, Hinckley and Bosworth, Blaby, Charnwood, North West Leicestershire, Melton)
- Lincolnshire (City of Lincoln, Boston, South Kesteven, West Lindsey, North Kesteven, South Holland, East Lindsey)
- Northamptonshire (Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire, Wellingborough)
- Derby and Derbyshire (Derby, Amber Valley, South Derbyshire, Bolsover, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash, Derbyshire Dales, High Peak)
- Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (Gedling, Ashfield, Mansfield, Rushcliffe, Bassetlaw, Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, Broxtowe)
- Birmingham and Black Country (Dudley, Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton)
- Warwickshire (Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Warwick, North Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon)
- Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent (East Staffordshire, Stafford, South Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Staffordshire Moorlands, Newcastle under Lyme, Tamworth, Stoke-on-Trent)
- Lancashire (Burnley, Pendle, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Blackpool, Preston, Hyndburn, Chorley, Fylde, Lancaster, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Wyre)
- Cheshire and Warrington (Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington)
- Cumbria (Eden, Carlisle, South Lakeland, Barrow-in-Furness, Copeland, Allerdale)
- Greater Manchester (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan)
- Tees Valley (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees )
- North East (County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside, Sunderland)
- Gloucestershire (Gloucester, Forest of Dean, Cotswolds, Tewkesbury, Stroud, Cheltenham)
- Somerset Council (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset)
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
- Isle of Wight
- New Forest
The following local authority areas will move to Tier 3:
- Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
- Worcestershire (Bromsgrove, Malvern Hills, Redditch, Worcester, Wychavon, Wyre Forest)
- Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens)
- York & North Yorkshire (Scarborough, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Selby, Craven, Ryedale, Harrogate, City of York)
- Bath and North East Somerset
- Devon, Plymouth, Torbay (East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, West Devon, Plymouth, Torbay)
All of the North East of England, the South West and most of the Midlands were thrown into Tier 4 this morning.
All of the North-east of England, including Cumbria, Cheshire, Warrington, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen have joined them too.
Most of the West Midlands and all of the East Midlands, except Rutland have followed suit
And large parts of the South West were also plunged into the toughest measures in either Tier 4 or Tier 3.
It comes as millions of schoolkids in the worst-hit Covid areas will stay home for at least an extra two weeks after the Christmas holidays.
Kids will be forced to learn from home if they can for at least two weeks – with no end date in sight for when they may go back.
Thousands of schools in 49 hardest-hit Covid areas will remain closed because of spiralling cases – except for vulnerable kids and children of key workers.
Many people were left scrabbling around trying to find the list to see if their kids would be back at school or not – with some furious at the differences in their local area.
One parent told the MailOnline: “The school at one end of the street I live in will be closed while the school at the other end is open.”
And another fumed that their area is now “split in two” with “schools on one side of the road closed, the other side open”.
A baffled parent wrote on Twitter: “Still no idea what I am meant to be doing on Monday.”
When will schools return?
Yesterday’s announcement means that all of England is living under Tier 3 or Tier 4 lockdown – apart from 2,000 people living on the Isles of Scilly.
Mr Hancock told MPs most new cases are from the new variant, which is as much as 56 per cent more contagious.