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Coronavirus: Ministers want ‘greater consistency’ in tier system

Police officers in Nottingham

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The government is seeking “greater consistency” as it prepares to reintroduce England’s regional Covid tier system next month, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick said ministers are reviewing the measures in each tier.

He said he expects a conclusion to be reached “within the next week or so”.

It comes after a senior government adviser said

the three-tier system used in England before the lockdown may need strengthening.

The government hopes to introduce tiers again when the national lockdown ends on 2 December.

Mr Jenrick told BBC Breakfast that ministers will look at “whether the measures that we had in the old tiers were effective”.

He pointed out that had restrictions “varied quite a bit in different parts in the country”, as some areas under tier three – the highest alert level – introduced their own rules in addition to the baseline measures.

“I think in the new tiers we would like greater consistency, and we will have to look at the evidence to see which of those measures [were] actually the most impactful on the virus, so that we take the most evidence-based approach that we can do,” he said.

“We haven’t come to a conclusion on that yet, to be perfectly honest, but we will be within the next week or so.”

Datapic on measures in the new three-tier system for England

Mr Jenrick said ministers will also look at “whether the new national measures themselves have had an impact and how great an impact that has been”.

“We won’t know that with any certainty until the last week of November,” he said.

He said that the prospect of a vaccine means “this really is a period of hope”.

“It does look as if over the course of the first half of next year, a very large proportion of the population will have access to the vaccine,” he said – adding that the government does not have plans to make it compulsory.

Regional variation

Speaking at the government’s evening coronavirus briefing on Monday, Public Health England’s Susan Hopkins – who is also a member of the government’s scientific advisory group (Sage) – said that, prior to the lockdown, the “tiering of the country” had had a “different effect in each area”.

“Tier three plus” had led to a reduction in cases in the North West, she said, while tier two “holds in some areas and not in others”, depending on “how well individuals are taking that advice in”.

However, she added: “We see very little effect from tier one and when we look at what tiers may be there in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.”

Her comments came after the UK announced another 21,363 daily Covid cases, as well as a further 213 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

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Before England went into its second lockdown this month, nearly a fifth of the population was living in tier three areas.

They included those in West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, the Liverpool City Region, Warrington and Nottinghamshire.

Some areas introduced tougher restrictions than others, going beyond the baseline tier three measures.

For example, betting shops, saunas, tattoo parlours and nail salons closed in Nottinghamshire.

Last month, police officers told the Home Affairs Select Committee that the tier system made it harder to enforce coronavirus restrictions because of the nuances that had been “creeping in”.

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