The Government will decide next week how to end the current lockdown in England as scientists warned a tougher tier system is needed until vaccines can drive back the Covid-19 pandemic.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Tuesday that ministers want to see a “significant easing” of coronavirus controls when the lockdown in England is lifted on December 2, but suggested tighter controls may be needed in the top Tier 3.
It comes after Susan Hopkins, medical director of Public Health England (PHE) and chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said ministers would have to look at “strengthening” the tier system.
Tier 1 restrictions that covered huge parts of England had “very little effect”, she said, adding that even Tier 2 only worked in some areas.
Documents released last week from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which reports to the Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies (Sage), said there was a “clear effect” on infection rates from strict Tier 3 interventions but “much less from Tiers 1 and 2”.
SPI-M believe infections will rise at the same rate as before if the same three-tier system is brought back in on December 2.
In a round of broadcast interviews on Tuesday, Mr Jenrick said any extension of the current lockdown would require a vote of Parliament.
“It is our hope and expectation that that won’t be the case and that people in England will be able to move back into the tiered system,” he told Sky News.
“There will be a review. That work is undergoing on what those tiers look like and how local areas go back in but that will very much depend on the data.
“We will have to make decisions nearer the end of the month once we have got the most up-to-date information possible.
“But we all want to see a significant easing of the measures in all parts of England at the beginning of next month.”
However, Mr Jenrick told BBC Breakfast the Government will be looking at whether to “embed” the additional measures previously available to local areas placed under Tier 3.
Asked if there could be a tougher tier than Tier 3 in the new system, he said: “We haven’t come to a decision on that.
“The Tier 3 that we had before was just considered a baseline.
“And then we did ask local areas whether they would be willing to go further and some did.
“My own area of Nottinghamshire, the local council chose to go over and above and limit the sale of alcohol for off-licences and so on after a certain time, so that people didn’t go home and have parties or drink alcohol on the streets.
“So there were some tweaks to the tiers that you’re seeing in some parts of the country and it’s that sort of thing that we now need to consider.
“Was that a sensible move? If so, should we embed that in the new tier structure?”
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