Family Christmas in jeopardy as government ‘to toughen up’ Covid tier system

The toughening up of the coronavirus tier system could ruin family Christmases.

A government expert warned that the lowest tier was less effective at reducing, recommending that they should be tightened until a Covid-19 vaccine can be implemented.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, told a Downing Street briefing that tier 1 had shown "very little effect".

This could mean that there is a ban on households mixing indoors after the national lockdown ends, jeopardising hopes families will be able to spend Christmas with their loved ones unless they live together.

Dr Hopkins said the higher tiers appeared to be working well before the second lockdown was introduced on November 5. It is scheduled to last until December 2.

She said: "We have recognised that the tiering of the country has had a different effect in each area.

"Tier 3 – and especially tier 3 plus in the north – has had an effect of reducing the number of cases in the north west, and we can see the north west's declining numbers of cases declining now."

She went on: "Tier 2 seems to hold in some areas and not so well in others so really it depends on how fast transmission is occurring and how well individuals in the population are taking that advice in.

"We see very little effect of Tier 1.

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"And I think when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone."

Under Tier 1 rules, the "Rule of Six" limited groups to six people, pubs and restaurants were open with a 10pm curfew and other businesses like shops, gyms and hairdressers were open.

There were no travel restrictions, overnight stays were allowed and weddings and funerals were also permitted with attendance restrictions.

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Under tier 2 restrictions people are not allowed to spend time indoors with people they do not live with and are not in a support bubble with.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is too early to know the impact of the second national lockdown in England on coronavirus cases, adding he hopes measures can be eased on December 2.

He said: "It is too early for us to know what the number of cases will be as we come to the end of the current lockdown.

"At the moment, most of the tests we're getting back, and most of the positive cases, are from around the time the lockdown came in so we are yet to see in the data – and it's too early to expect to see in the data – the impact of the second lockdown.

"But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before."

Dr Hopkins added: "We expect if the lockdown is working, that we will start to see cases decline over the next week.

"We expect it will be longer to see hospital admissions, another week or so, but I think as long as we start seeing cases decline then we can start making a judgment about what are the right decisions that we make and what the opening up decisions that happen on December 2."

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