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.
Tier 3 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.
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.
The onerous tiered system will be in place across England from December 3 until the end of March, the Prime Minister said
Boris Johnson (left) is out of self-isolation and was in the Commons for the statement by Matt Hancock (right) today. The PM will hold a press conference this evening
New coronavirus tiers: which one is your home in?
TIER THREE: VERY HIGH
Tees Valley Combined Authority:
Redcar and Cleveland
North East Combined Authority:
Newcastle upon Tyne
Blackburn with Darwen
Yorkshire and The Humber
Birmingham and Black Country
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull
Derby and Derbyshire
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
Leicester and Leicestershire
Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)
Kent and Medway
TIER 2: HIGH
Liverpool City Region
Warrington and Cheshire
Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
East of England
Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
All 32 boroughs plus the City of London
Brighton and Hove
Windsor and Maidenhead
Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
Bath and North East Somerset
Wiltshire and Swindon
TIER 1: MEDIUM
Isle of Wight
Isles of Scilly
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.’
Coronavirus cases have dropped in two thirds of all London boroughs and the city will enter Tier 2 from December 2
Steve Baker and Sir Robert Syms were among the Tory MPs voicing anger at the draconian restrictions
Sturgeon ends UK united front by saying Christmas bubbles should be no more than eight people
Nicola Sturgeon turned Ebeneezer Scrooge today as she told Scots to limit ‘Christmas Bubbles’ to just eight people – and warned against hugs for granny.
The Scottish Government issued its guidance today for the festive season, days after a ‘four nation’ approach for the UK was put into place.
It was expected to allow people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow the same rules, and cross borders to be with loved ones.
But the Scots today said it would ‘recommend’ only eight adults and teenagers in a bubble formed of three households – although there is no limit on children under 12.
And it also suggested that the two-metre social distancing rule be maintained as much as possible, urging Scots not to embrace loved ones they may not have seen for weeks and months.
The rules are in contrast with those in England, where under the three-household plan there are no limits on numbers.
The Prime Minister, who will hold a press conference this evening, told Conservative MPs last night that the new measures were going to be ‘very tough’.
But he is braced for a massive backlash from his own benches, amid anger that the measures will destroy thousands of businesses, amount to ‘lockdown by another name’, and the criteria used to make decisions are too ‘finger in the air’.
Ministers have tried to cool the tensions by stressing that the tiers will be reviewed every two weeks, with the first due on December 16.
This holds out a prospective carrot that restrictions could be eased even before the ‘Christmas Bubble’ relaxation on December 23.
A study published yesterday found the previous Tier One was ‘clearly inadequate’ last time around – only one area out of the 169 previously under these rules saw a fall in cases.
The tiered system will kick at the end of national lockdown on December 2 – but the measures go further than the previous regime, meaning Tier Three is effectively a transition into full lockdown.
Areas which make progress in slowing the spread of the virus could still be moved down a tier before Christmas, however, with the first review of the allocations due to take place by December 16.
The key decisions on lockdown levels were made at a meeting of the Covid O committee last night, led by Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock. They were rubber-stamped by the Cabinet before Mr Hancock made a statement to the Commons.
It comes after leading Oxford University academic Carl Heneghan said areas placed into the strictest Tiers 2 and 3 could be in a ‘very different position’ next week.
Professor Heneghan, an epidemiologist, said if rates continue to fall ‘it will be hard to justify tougher tiered restrictions’.
Instead, there should be clear criteria which decides whether areas face the strictest measures.
He insisted: ‘By the time we get to December 2 we will be in very different position than we are now, therefore we need to be much more flexible and reactive, and set out clear criteria.’
He told MailOnline: ‘There is no point in saying to people ‘this is where you are now [in terms of Covid] and you’ll be in this tier next week’.
‘We should be explaining to people the two important criteria that should decide which areas go into which tiers – symptomatic cases and hospital rates.
Tiers ‘postcode checker’ crashes on launch
The Government postcode checker for finding out which tier your local area has been placed into after lockdown crashed today just minutes after going live.
Those inputting their postcode on the website this morning were told: ‘Sorry, we’re experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments.’
Others were given a different message saying: ‘We’re experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later. You can find coronavirus information on Gov.UK.’
The checker went live on the website shortly after 11am, around half an hour before Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the details in the House of Commons.
Britons were left frustrated by the issue, posting a series of memes – with one saying: ‘Can’t catch Covid if you’re at home constantly refreshing a postcode checker.’
‘For instance, say Kent is announced to be in Tier Three and it has 50 per cent of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, you could tell people they have to adjust that to 30 per cent to come out of Tier Three. That’s objective criteria.’
His warning came as the UK recorded its highest daily virus death toll since the beginning of May.
Official data showed 696 deaths were confirmed yesterday. This is the highest since 726 deaths were reported on May 5.
Speaking to a restive 1922 Committee of his backbench MPs last night, the Prime Minister said: ‘I see us steadily making progress over the next four months. They will really erode the ability of the virus to do damage to our population.’
Economic forecasts put forward by the Treasury watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, have worked on the basis that ‘high to medium’ measures – Tiers 2 and 3 – will be in force until the middle of next year.
But the Prime Minister told his MPs he didn’t agree with their ‘gloomy prediction,’
Mr Johnson compared the mass testing and vaccine programmes to ‘steadily starting to insert graphite rods into a nuclear reactor’.
Nonetheless, there remains serious upset on the Tory backbenches over the tier system.
Jake Berry, of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said: ‘We repeat our call for a clear route out of the tiering system and to make sure that the North does not get stuck in a Hotel California lockdown where we can enter Tier Three but never leave.’
These charts show how the infection profile has changed across the UK between mid September (left) and mid-November
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
Official data showed 696 deaths were confirmed yesterday. This is the highest since 726 deaths were reported on May 5