What tier are YOU in and why? Official doc attempts to justify curbs
What tier are YOU in and why? Secrecy row as Department of Health publishes its justification for putting all but THREE regions of England in toughest two brackets – but refuses to reveal thresholds
- Breakdown vaguely details why different restrictions were allocated to areas but refuses to reveal thresholds
- It appears to be a direct response to fierce criticism about transparency levelled at Government over its Tiers
- Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth demanded live ‘scorecard’ to show how areas are faring in Covid fight
Number 10 today published a breakdown of England’s lockdown tiers in a desperate attempt to justify the brutal curbs to the public as Boris Johnson announced all but three places of the country will be plunged into the toughest brackets.
The document, released as it emerged almost 99 per cent of the population will be living in some form of lockdown when the national intervention finally ends on December 2, vaguely details why different restrictions were allocated to each area but doesn’t reveal the exact thresholds behind making the decisions.
It seems to be a direct response to fierce criticism levelled at the Government about transparency by scientists and its own MPs, who accused ministers of using ‘finger in the air’ criteria to make the crucial decisions that will put a wrecking ball through already-crippled pubs, restaurants and clubs in swathes of the nation.
In Tier Three Manchester, for example, the Department of Health breakdown said ‘while there has been continued improvement’, weekly infections remain too high, ‘especially in those over 60, at around 260 per 100,000 people.’ Tagged on the end of the explanation is a vague message about the pressure on the local NHS ‘remaining a concern’, especially in ‘Manchester University hospital and Pennine Acute Trust’.
Improvements have been seen in Tier Three Leicester, according to the breakdown, but Covid-19 infection rates remain ‘very high’ at 355 per 100,000, including in over 60s at 250. The DoH document adds: ‘The pressure on the local NHS remains very high.’
Only Cornwall, Scilly and the Isle of Wight have been put into the loosest Tier 1, which allows socialising inside homes and pubs subject to the Rule of Six. As a result most of England will be banned from mixing indoors with other households, apart from five days over Christmas. Pubs in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with ‘substantial’ meals.
Amid shambolic scenes this morning, the government had set an online postcode checker live before the official statement. As residents, journalists and MPs scrambled to gather the news on what decisions had been taken, the website then promptly crashed under the weight of traffic. And the original justification document published on the Government’s website contained a series of question marks against some of the areas listed — but it is not clear why.
Oxford University’ Carl Heneghan, professor in evidence-based medicine and epidemiologist, told MailOnline without ‘clear, objective criteria’, people are often left confused about why they are being punished and what behaviour they need to adjust to move out of the tougher lockdown brackets.
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth demanded that the government publishes a ‘scorecard’ showing exactly how each area measured against its criteria for deciding Tiers amid complaints they are too vague, and the geographical areas too broad.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre will review the Covid situation in areas every two weeks and sign off on proposals to upgrade or downgrade places, though the final decision remains with the PM. However, there are no specific trigger thresholds for coming in or out of Tiers.
But Professor Heneghan — who yesterday told MailOnline the restrictions would be outdated by the time they come into force next week — said officials ‘need to be much more flexible and reactive’ so regions can be freed from the economically-damaging curbs at the drop of a hat, if the outbreak starts trending in the right direction.
Adding to confusion, the regional tier breakdown published on Parliament’s website contained a series of question marks alongside some of the areas listed. It was not immediately clear why the question marks were on the document or if was an early draft of the document mistakenly released.
It adds to a catalogue of blunders by UK health officials who in September lost nearly 16,000 Covid test results due to a Microsoft’s Excel glitch and were four months late in launching their ‘world beating’ Test and Trace app.
The Department of Health today announced the new lockdown tiers that England will be divided into when the national lockdown ends on December 2
All but three places will be plunged into Tier Three or Two (shown in red and orange) when England’s national shutdown ends on Wednesday
The regional tier breakdown published on Parliament’s website contained a series of question marks alongside some of the areas listed. It was not immediately clear why the question marks were on the document or if was an early draft of the document mistakenly released
The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said
Covid-19 cases have fallen across most of the North of England since lockdown was imposed, but they are rising in a corner of the South East. The percentage change is based on comparing data from the week ending November 15 to the week ending November 8. It comes as the Government prepares to unveil its tier system
Boris Johnson has promised to base Tier allocation on ‘common sense’, and the government’s ‘Winter Plan’ set out a series of metrics that will be used. They are:
- Case detection rates in all age groups;
- Case detection rates in the over 60s;
- The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
- Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken); and
- Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.
However, there are no specific numerical trigger points, and the document added that there will be ‘some flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’.
‘For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients,’ the document said.
‘Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities.’
For Liverpool – formerly the country’s Covid hotspot – ‘cases have fallen by 69 per cent over six weeks’.
But the region was placed in Tier Two because ‘case rates in over 60s are very high (over 200 per 100,000) in six lower tier local authorities’, according to the document.
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, two of three places to be put in Tier One, there are low case rates and test positivity and the infections in all ages are stable or declining, officials said.
‘There have been no cases in the Isles of Scilly in the last seven days meaning there is strong evidence to make an allocation to Tier One,’ it added.
In Tier One Isle of Wight, the DoH claimed: ‘The case rate is low and decreasing at 71 per 100,000 and lower in over 60s at 44 per 100,000. COVID-19 pressure on the NHS is low.’
Experts have said the Government should be prepared to start moving places up and down tiers next week when the lockdown ends because the country ‘will be in very different position than it is now’.
Professor Heneghan warned the tiers may already be outdated and ‘unjustified’ when the national shutdown lapses next week because Covid infections are plummeting across the country.
He said ‘if the trend continues it will be hard to justify tougher tiered restrictions’ when the lockdown ends on Wednesday.
‘The expert urged ministers to lay out exactly what needs to change for high-risk areas to be downgraded.
For example, residents in Manchester should be told if they get their case rates in the over-60s then the region should be moved to Tier Two.
At present, the Government is not doing that and it will wait at least two weeks before reassessing the different tiers.
WHAT IS THE JOINT BIOSECURITY CENTRE?
The Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up in May at the cost of £9billion – has been slammed as ‘far too opaque’.
Little is known about the secretive body, which is run out of the Cabinet Office, where Dominic Cummings’ ally and former boss Michael Gove is the responsible minister.
Its staff consists of senior Department of Health bosses, epidemiologists and data analysts. But its structure, and details on whether experts are paid by the government, have not been announced.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
The JBC was originally tasked with monitoring Covid-19 and assisting the nation’s chief medical officers in setting the threat level.
But it was given boosted responsibilities in July, when Matt Hancock downgraded Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE following criticisms about its response to the first wave.
Data from all of the Government’s health and science bodies are though to be fed into the JBC, which then recommends action to Number 10.
But to be implemented, measures need to be signed off by the prime minister. These include lockdown restrictions and the new revamped tiered system.
The JBC will assess the Covid situation across England every two weeks and decide if places need to be upgraded or downgraded.
However, there are no specific trigger thresholds for coming in or out of Tiers. And there will be ‘flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’.
WHO RUNS THE JBC?
The JBC is headed by Dr Clare Gardiner, a qualified epidemiologist, medical researcher, and cybersecurity director at GCHQ.
She reports to Baroness Dido Harding, the chief of NHS Test and Trace and the entire JBC organisation falls under the control of the Department of Health, which answers to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.
Tory MPs today accused the Government of ‘authoritarianism’ when it emerged the brutal lockdowns will affect nearly 99 per cent of England.
Although London and Liverpool were spared the harshest Tier 3 in small glimmers of light, just 700,000 people – one per cent of the population – will be subject to the loosest grade of restrictions.
Meanwhile, around 55million residents will be in the toughest two levels after the blanket national lockdown ends on December 2, according to the breakdown released today.
Tier Three will be brought in for huge swathes of the country including the bulk of the North, much of the Midlands, all of Kent, and Bristol – putting a wrecking ball through pubs, restaurants and clubs now forced to close except for takeaway.
London escapes Tier 3 and is placed in second bracket – but cases have yet to drop in Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham
Coronavirus infections in are trending upwards in at least four London boroughs despite the capital avoiding a Tier 3 lockdown, figures show.
The city was placed under laxer Tier 2 restrictions today in a huge boost for the hospitality and entertainment sectors in London.
Tier 2 means restaurants, gyms, cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys, hotels and leisure centres will be able to open.
The decision was made because the vast majority of London’s 32 boroughs are seeing average infections trend downwards.
But Government data shows four east London boroughs, Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham and Waltham Forest, are bucking the trend.
Newham was recording 113.4 infections every day on average on November 18, the most recent snapshot.
That’s 6 per cent more than the 101.7 the week beforehand, on November 11, and 20 per cent more than the 94.9 a fortnight prior.
In Redbridge, also in east London, daily cases were averaging 131.8 on the same date, up from 121.3 the week before and 101.4 on November 4.
The borough of Barking and Dagenham is also recording an upwards trend in cases, though the rate of increase how slowed.
On November 18 cases were 80.3, on average, compared to 75 on November 11 and 70 the week before that.
Waltham Forest was seeing cases decrease in mid-November but they have started to trend in the opposite direction.
After an October surge in cases, the borough had an average 92 daily infections by November 10. This plunged to 76.9 by November 16, but rebounded up to 84.6 by November 18.
Only Cornwall, Scilly and the Isle of Wight have been put into the loosest Tier 1, which allows socialising inside homes and pubs subject to the Rule of Six.
As a result most of England will be banned from mixing indoors with other households, apart from five days over Christmas. Pubs in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with ‘substantial’ meals.
Tory rebel ringleader Steve Baker warned that the government must explain how it is balancing the economic harm with public health.
‘The authoritarianism at work today is truly appalling. But is it necessary and proportionate to the threat from this disease?’ he tweeted.
‘On the economy and on coronavirus, I fear we are now so far down the rabbit hole that we have forgotten we even entered it.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock formally unveiled the breakdown of areas in the Commons after days of wrangling, saying the country has to stay ‘vigilant’.
He also defended the criteria being used amid complaints that they are too vague and amount to ‘finger in the air’.
And he immediately signalled a retreat on the fortnightly reviews, suggesting that in fact the tiers could be rethought weekly.
Amid shambolic scenes the government had set an online postcode checker live before the statement.
As residents, journalists and MPs scrambled to gather the news on what decisions had been taken, the website then promptly crashed under the weight of traffic.
Tier 3 means that millions of people face a ban on households mixing indoors and outdoors, and pubs will be only be able to provide takeaway service or must close altogether.
The revised Tier 2 restrictions shut pubs unless they serve meals and order people not to meet other households indoors.
Some 23million people will be in that category from next Wednesday, and 32million are in Tier 2.
London was spared after data showed coronavirus falling quickly in more than two-thirds of boroughs – and seemingly stalling in the rest.
Liverpool has also run a successful campaign to control its outbreak after mass testing in the city.
Mr Hancock pointed out that his own Suffolk constituency was going into Tier 2 despite having some of the lowest infection rates.
In a nod to anger on the Tory benches, he said he knew that many other places would prefer to be in the lowest bracket.
And he rejected criticism that there are no specific thresholds for putting areas into the levels.
Mr Hancock told MPs: ‘The indicators have been designed to give the government a picture of what is happening with the virus in any area so that suitable action can be taken.
‘These key indicators need to be viewed in the context of how they interact with each other as well as the wider context but provide an important framework for decision making – assessing the underlying prevalence in addition to how the spread of the disease is changing in areas.
‘Given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators.’
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth demanded that the government publishes a ‘scorecard’ showing exactly how each area measured against its criteria for deciding Tiers.
In the Commons, Conservative MP Greg Smith said he was ‘incredibly disappointed’ his Buckingham constituency was placed in Tier 2.
He said: ‘It’s incredibly disappointing news that Buckinghamshire having entered the national lockdown in Tier 1 will emerge from the national lockdown into the more punitive restrictions of Tier 2.
‘A decision that will be hard to understand in the rural communities of north Buckinghamshire that have relatively low infection rates and a decision that will be hard to understand given that there has been zero consultation between central government and Buckinghamshire Council and our local NHS.’
Tory MP for York Outer Julian Sturdy urged the Government to review the situation every week, rather than once a fortnight.
Mr Hancock appeared to concede that should happen.
‘We will review these in a fortnight, and then regularly, by which he can reasonably take weekly,’ he said.
‘And we will have a weekly cycle of meetings with the CMO chairing a meeting typically on a Tuesday, I then chair the meeting on a Wednesday for an announcement on Thursday for any change to the tiers.’
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the lack of business support available to Tier 3 areas, and said he wanted the region moved down before Christmas if it continued to make progress.
He said: ‘Greater Manchester’s infection rate is reducing faster than any other part of the country but we have to accept that it is still significantly higher than the England average.
‘That said, if the current rate of improvement continues, we will be asking the Government to move our city-region into Tier 2 in two weeks’ time.
‘What we believe is completely wrong is the Government’s decision to provide no additional business support to areas in Tier 3 than those in Tiers 1 and 2.
‘The new Tier 3 will hit the hospitality sector extremely hard. While there are grants for businesses forced to close, there is no extra support for business which supply them like security, catering and cleaning.
‘This will cause real hardship for people whose jobs will be affected and risk the loss of many businesses.’
Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street tweeted: ‘Tier 3 for the WM is very disappointing, but we must now focus on getting out ASAP.
‘The trajectory is good, and our stay should be short-lived if people stick to the rules.
‘However more support is needed whilst in T3, particularly for the hospitality and live events sectors.’
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis warned that ‘lockdown must not become limbo’.
Mr Jarvis, who is also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said: ‘I welcome Government plans to review our tier arrangements every two weeks, because every extra day we are under restrictions could be the difference between a business surviving the pandemic or going under.
‘It is now essential we get a roadmap to get us out of Tier 3 as a matter of urgency.’
He said: ‘We need absolute clarity and consistency from the government about the criteria for areas moving between the Tiers. We need a test and trace system that is fit for purpose and we need clear communications
‘There is light at the end of the tunnel. In South Yorkshire the rate of new infections, and more importantly the number of older people in hospital with the virus, is moving in the right direction.
‘We’ve been under tighter restrictions in South Yorkshire since October 24, and they are slowly suffocating businesses, particularly in the hospitality and events sectors. They are now being hit again just as they enter their busiest time of year.’
Mr Jarvis added: ‘It’s deeply concerning that the government yet again excluded mayors and local leaders from the decision-making process around the new Tiering arrangements.’
Earlier, Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted people will ‘see a difference’ when England’s national lockdown ends next week. He told Sky News today: ‘Whichever tier you’re in I think people will see a tangible change.
‘That said, things are obviously not normal and I can’t pretend that next week things are going to feel like they were before the spring.’
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