MPs will vote on a tougher system in England this week for when the second national lockdown ends on December 2.
Under the three-pronged approach, 99% of the land would fall under the two highest restriction levels.
But when will the restrictions be reviewed and what will be taken into account when determining the level of an area?
– How many people have to deal with severe disabilities?
More than 55 million people will be placed in Tier 2 and Tier 3 measures on December 2, meaning that indoor household mixing will be effectively banned for the vast majority of the country.
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – accounting for just over 1% of the UK population – face the lightest Tier 1 coronavirus restrictions.
Large areas of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, which accounts for 41.5% of the population, or 23.3 million people.
The majority of authorities – including London – will be in Tier 2, which will cover 57.3% of the country or 32 million people.
– What are the main indicators that will determine the limitations in each area in the first place?
Five factors are considered:
– detection rates of cases in all age groups;
– the number of cases of detection in the over-60s;
– the speed at which cases rise or fall;
– the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of the tests administered;
– Pressure on the NHS, including current and forecast occupancy.
Downing Street declined to provide further details on the indicators or any estimate of the thresholds.
But – in light of a possible Tory uprising – Boris Johnson has now pledged to publish more data and outline what conditions need to change in order for an area to go down one level, as well as an analysis of its health, economic and social effects of the measures. taken to suppress the coronavirus.
– Why are there no rigid thresholds?
The government has said it should maintain flexibility to weigh the indicators – for example, whether hospital capacity in neighboring areas is lower.
Another example given in the winter plan for the coronavirus is that the detection rates of cases need to be weighed against whether the spread of the virus is localized in particular communities.
The plan states that “given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators as this would lead to lower quality decisions”.
– Is there broad support for the tier system?
A number of the Prime Minister’s conservative colleagues were openly critical of the three-pronged system.
In a crunch vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday on the measures, MPs can reject the plan.
Lisa Nandy, the Labor Shadow’s secretary of state, said her party’s support was “not unconditional” and that she was looking for “clarity” on the level system.
Without Labor support – and if Mr Johnson suffers a major rebellion – the government could struggle to get its motion through at the system level.
– If the vote is won and the tier system comes into effect, when can changes be made?
The first assessment of the levels is scheduled for December 16.
Mr Johnson has said that the allocation of levels will be reviewed every 14 days from that date and suggested that mass testing could exempt households from restrictions.
He also said that in the initial review of the measures in mid-December, he would move areas to a level where there is “robust evidence” that the coronavirus is constantly deteriorating.
He has written to Tory MPs, offering them another chance to vote on the restrictions early next year, saying the legislation will “disappear on February 3”.
That post-Christmas vote will determine whether the tier system will remain in effect through the end of March.
– What are the scientists saying about the prospect of easing measures?
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said it would be a “terrible mistake” to relax restrictions just months before vaccines “start to take effect.”
Prof Openshaw, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: “We scientists are indeed very concerned about relaxation of precautions at this stage. The rates are still too high, too many cases come to hospitals, too many people die.
“And if we let go of the brakes at this stage, just as the end is near, I think we would make a big mistake.”