Parts of England could change tiers before Christmas, SAGE adviser says

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·2 min read
People wearing face masks pass Christmas lights outside shops on Oxford Street, London, as England continues a four week national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Parts of England could move into lighter restrictions by Christmas, an expert has said. (PA)

Parts of England could have their coronavirus tier changed before Christmas, a government adviser has said, potentially allowing people in more places to meet friends and family indoors.

England’s local authorities have been placed into one of three tiers, stricter than the old system, for when lockdown ends on 2 December.

All but three areas have been put into Tiers 2 and 3, which ban socialising indoors in most circumstances, limit or ban spectators of sport and impose restrictions on hospitality venues.

However, speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Thursday, Boris Johnson insisted areas could move into more relaxed tiers depending on how their outbreak is progressing, each case being assessed every two weeks, adding that “your tier is not your destiny”.

Watch: Who is in what tier?

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said it was “feasible” for an area to move from Tier 3 or 2 to a more lax one during the first review on 16 December.

“I just think it would be quite difficult,” he said.

He added for that to happen by 16 December, the government would need to use “softer”, more rapid indicators like mobility and contact data, rather than more solid information that takes longer to come out, such as hospitalisation figures.

By the time of the first review, the data would likely reflect the impact of lockdown rather than the tiers, he said.

“What you really want is probably harder indicators... so I just think it would be difficult to make changes as rapidly as two weeks,” Professor Edmunds added.

“But I don’t think it’s impossible, but I do think it would be difficult.”

Just three areas in England made it into Tier 1, where people can socialise subject to the rule of six and are asked to stay at home for work where possible. Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight are the only places in the laxest restrictions.

Read more: What are the Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules – and which areas are included?

In Tier 2, pubs and restaurants have to serve a substantial meal to sell alcohol, while sport spectators will be allowed with a reduced capacity compared to Tier 1. Meeting people from other households indoors is not allowed if they are not in a support bubble.

Tier 3 bans spectators and pubs and restaurants will have to operate as takeaway services.

Watch: How will the new tier system work?