The three-tier lockdown approach introduced in England may have to be “strengthened” over winter, a leading doctor has warned.
Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins, medical advisor of the coronavirus response, said they’ve recognised that the Tier approach, introduced by the Prime Minister in October, had a different effect in each area of the country.
Although Tier 3 worked at reducing cases in the north, the doctor said that Tier 1 had “very little effect”.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it’s “too early” to see any impact from the national lockdown, which is due to end on December 2 in just over two weeks.
Speaking at the Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Monday, Dr Hopkins 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 in reducing the numbers of cases in the North West and we can see the North West’s declining number of cases now.
“Tier 2 seems to hold in some areas and not so well in others, and so really it depends on how fast transmission is occurring and how well the individuals in the population are taking that advice in.”
She added: “We see very little effect from Tier 1 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.”
Her comments came shortly after Mr Hancock could not guarantee that the national lockdown would end on December 2, as promised by the Prime Minister at the start of the month.
The Health Secretary told the briefing: “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.”