Watch: Matt Hancock outlines England’s return to three-tier COVID system
The government has announced the vast majority of England will be under strict Tier 2 and 3 coronavirus restrictions after the national lockdown ends on 2 December.
It raises two important questions.
1. How often will each area’s tier be reviewed?
Downing Street has said the first review will take place on 16 December, which will mark two weeks of the new tier system being in place.
Number 10 said: “This allows for the possibility of areas that continue to make progress in slowing the spread of the disease to be moved down a tier in advance of Christmas.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock suggested in the House of Commons on Thursday that decisions will be taken weekly after that.
“We will review these in a fortnight [on 16 December] and then regularly, by which [you] can take weekly.”
Hancock said “we have a weekly cycle of meetings”, with England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty chairing meetings on Tuesdays and Hancock himself chairing meetings on Wednesdays in readiness “for an announcement on Thursday for any change to the tiers”.
In that case, we can expect the weekly announcements to be made on 24 December, 31 December, 7 January and so on.
As Boris Johnson confirmed the return to the three-tier system on Monday, the prime minister suggested the tier system will last until March as he said: “Our winter plan is designed to carry us safely to spring.
2. What will be the factors behind tier decisions?
The government said “decisions on tiers are made by ministers based on public health recommendations informed by the following factors”:
case detection rate – in all age groups and in particular among the over 60s
how quickly case rates are rising or falling
COVID positivity in the general population
pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity based on admissions, general/acute/intensive care unit bed occupancy, and staff absences
local context and exceptional circumstances – such as a local but contained outbreak
Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work