Watch: Matt Hancock announces further Tier 4 restrictions across England
Further 6 million people in South East and East in Tier 4 from Boxing Day
Matt Hancock says ‘it is absolutely vital we act’ following spread of ‘dangerous’ new strain of COVID-19
43% of England’s population will be in Tier 4... as other areas also moved up into Tier 3
Millions more people in England will be subject to the most severe Tier 4 restrictions following the “dangerous” spread of the new strain of coronavirus.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is absolutely vital that we act”.
On Boxing Day, 6 million people will move from Tier 3 to Tier 4. The affected areas are Sussex; Oxfordshire; Suffolk; Norfolk; Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4; Waverley in Surrey; and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton but excluding the New Forest.
That means a total of 24 million people, or 43% of England’s population, will be in Tier 4.
Boris Johnson introduced Tier 4 on Saturday, initially for parts of London, the South East and East of England.
Tier 4 most resembles the previous national lockdowns, and Hancock said: “I know these actions have consequences. I know how difficult it is.
“But I also know that it is right to take the action that is necessary to control this virus.”
He said cases have risen 57% in the past week, with 18,943 people in hospital with COVID-19: close to the number of hospitalisations during the first peak in April.
Meanwhile, the following areas will be moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3: Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington. Bristol and North Somerset had only been moved down to Tier 2 on Saturday.
Two areas in the least severe Tier 1 – where people are allowed to mix indoors in groups of up to six – have also gone up to Tier 2. Hancock said Cornwall and Herefordshire had to be moved because of “sharply rising rates”. Herefordshire had only been moved down to Tier 1 on Saturday.
As of Boxing Day, 25 million people (44% of England’s population) will be in Tier 3, 7 million (13% of the population) in Tier 2, and just 2,000 people in the Isles of Scilly in Tier 1.
Genomic researchers have found that the new strain, which is said to be up to 70% more transmissible, has already spread around the UK.
With Hancock saying “it is a fact” that “Tier 3 is not enough to control the new variant”, it is likely further areas will soon be moved into Tier 4.
Asked whether Tier 4 restrictions will be effective against the new variant, Hancock said the measures “do as much as is reasonably possible but it all depends on how people actually behave”.
Delivering further bad news to the nation at the Downing Street briefing, Hancock announced two cases of another new strain of COVID have been detected in the UK.
He said: “This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the variant that has been discovered in the UK.”
Both cases were contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa, with investigations into the new strain set to be carried out at the government’s Porton Down research facility.
Watch: What is long COVID?