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Tough Covid-19 restrictions for 99% of people in England as Johnson says ‘hard winter’ ahead

The new restrictions will take effect after 2 December.

Image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on Covid-19 today.
Image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on Covid-19 today.
Image: PA

MORE THAN 55 million people face tougher coronavirus restrictions in England after 2 December as Boris Johnson warned any easing off could lead to another national lockdown in the new year.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – accounting for little over 1% of England’s population – face the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, but the majority of people – including London – will be in Tier 2.

At a Downing Street press conference, Johnson said: “I’m sorry to confirm that from Wednesday most of England will be in the top two tiers, with the toughest measures.

And I know that this will bring a great deal of heartache and frustration, especially for our vital hospitality sector.

“If we ease off now we risk losing control over this virus all over again, casting aside our hard-won gains and forcing us back into a new year national lockdown with all the damage that would mean,” he said.

Some 23.3 million people – 41.5% of the population of England – will be in Tier 3, while 32 million people – 57.3% – will be in the second tier.

In Tier 1, the rule of six applies indoors and outdoors, people are urged to work from home if they can and pubs are limited to table service.

In Tier 2, restrictions include a ban on households mixing indoors, while pubs and restaurants will only be able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

Tier 3 measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as in parks.

Bars and restaurants will be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people will be advised to avoid travelling outside their area.

In all areas, shops and schools will remain open.

The British prime minister acknowledged that pubs, restaurants and hotels – “the soul of our communities” – were bearing a “disproportionate share” of the burden in controlling the virus in order to ensure it was safe for children to go to class.

“If we’re going to keep schools open – as we must – then our options in bearing down on the disease are necessarily limited,” Johnson said.

But he said that advances in vaccine and testing technologies could offer hope once the country gets through a “hard winter”.

‘Hold the line’

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned that while Tier 2 restrictions would be enough to “hold the line”, they could not reliably reduce the number of cases.

Areas placed in Tier 3 from 2 December include:

– In the North East: Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside and County Durham.

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– In the North West: Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen.

– In Yorkshire and The Humber: The Humber, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire.

The tier allocations will be reviewed on December 16, with weekly revisions thereafter.

Case rates are currently rising in only eight of the 119 areas to go into Tier 3.

Seven of the eight are in south-east England: Dover, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, Tonbridge & Malling, and Tunbridge Wells. The other is Hyndburn in north-west England.

MPs will vote on the new system on December 1, the day before the tiers come into force, and Johnson faces a revolt on the Tory benches over the measures.

The British government has promised to publish an impact assessment of the measures before MPs vote on them following protests that economic harm and the knock-on health impacts of restrictions are not being properly considered.

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