The UK government is reviewing England’s tiering system to decide which coronavirus restrictions should be put in place when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, the communities secretary has confirmed.
Robert Jenrick said ministers wanted to see a “significant easing” of coronavirus controls to have “a somewhat more normal December”, but that it was too early to say which tiers particular areas would move into.
However, he said any extension of the lockdown would require a vote of parliament.
“It is our hope and expectation that that won’t be the case and that people in England will be able to move back into the tiered system,” he told Sky News.
“There will be a review. That work is undergoing on what those tiers look like and how local areas go back in but that will very much depend on the data. We will have to make decisions nearer the end of the month once we have got the most up-to-date information possible.
“So it is too early to say which tiers people will be able to go into. But we all want to see a significant easing of the measures in all parts of England at the beginning of next month.”
He told LBC: “We are doing the heavy lifting in November so that we can have a somewhat more normal December.” He said early data showed the tiered system had slowed rates of infection.
Jenrick added that the government wanted “greater consistency” in a potential post-lockdown tier system.
He told BBC Breakfast: “In tier 3 there was a baseline of measures, which the chief medical officer and others have always said was only the beginning, and we then asked local areas to consider whether they would be willing to go further than that, some did, some decided not to.
“So 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 was actually the most impactful on the virus so that we take the most evidence-based approach that we can do.
“We haven’t come to a conclusion on that yet, to be perfectly honest, but we will be within the next week or so.”
However, Dr Susan Hopkins, an epidemiologist, told the Downing Street press conference on Monday that tier 1 coronavirus restrictions had “little effect”, while the impact of tier 2 varied in different places.
Hopkins, who is advising the government’s Covid-19 response, said it would have to consider strengthening the measures “to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone”.
That goal of securing a vaccine moved a step closer after early data showed a new jab to be almost 95% effective in protecting against the virus.
At Monday’s press briefing, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said “great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue”, but admitted the UK had secured only 5m doses of Moderna’s vaccine.
“While there is much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame,” he said.
In Scotland, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was due to make an announcement on Tuesday over lockdown restrictions. She has said that areas with “stubbornly high” levels of the virus could be temporarily placed under more severe restrictions to give more flexibility for a “limited and careful easing” of the rules over Christmas.