After numerous reports that the measure was being considered, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a three-tier lockdown system for England later today (12 October).
Several areas in the north of England, including Merseyside, the North East and North West are expected to be put into the highest tier, reflecting the more dramatic surge in new infections and hospitalisations in these areas.
While the exact details of the plan are yet to be announced, it is expected that the restrictions might differ slightly between areas within the same tier, due to differences in transmission in each area.
It has also been confirmed that the Nightingale temporary field hospitals have been put on standby in some areas.
Last month it was reported that the government was preparing to implement a new three-tier lockdown system in England, according to plans seen by the Guardian.
Under the new system, stricter restrictions could be put in place locally or nationally if the number of coronavirus cases doesn’t start to fall.
Under the system, areas with the highest levels of infection would be placed into alert level three, while the base-level of restrictions for the entire country would start at level one.
Areas with rising or higher than average levels of infection would be placed in alert level two, but the national level could also rise to level two if there’s a general increase in case numbers.
While the plans have not yet been signed off by Downing Street and the measures included could still change, the “Covid-19 Proposed Social Distancing Framework” is expected to be implemented in some form in the coming weeks.
What restrictions are the different alert levels likely to include?
Alert level 3
- Closure of hospitality and leisure businesses
- No social contact outside your household in any setting
- Restrictions on overnight stays away from home
- No organised non-professional sports permitted or other communal hobby groups and activities, such as social clubs in community centres
- Places of worship can remain open
Alert level 2
- People must not meet others outside of their household in private dwellings or gardens, apart from their support bubble, or in pubs, restaurants or other settings
- Care home visits in exceptional circumstances only
- Travel limited to essential purposes
- Holidays permitted within households
- Organised sports team OK
- Weddings limited to 15 attendants, with no reception, and funerals cut to 15
Alert level 1
- Base-level national restrictions
- Rule of six for indoor and outdoor gatherings
- 10pm hospitality curfew
- Weddings limited to 15 attendants, but funerals can allow 30
Why are the government considering a new system?
The plans come after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK jumped significantly over the weekend, partly due to a computer error with the Track and Trace system.
The document laying out the plans shows that the government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has recommended that a raft of measures taken together, rather than individual changes, will have the most effect in controlling the virus.
It is thought that the traffic-light style plan is being brought in to simplify the current system, which sees a variety of different restrictions applied unevenly across the country, making them harder to follow and lowering public trust.
Speaking to The Guardian, a Department of Health spokesman said: “We are seeing coronavirus cases rise at a rapid rate across the country and, given how serious this virus is, it is vital everyone plays their part by following the rule of six, washing their hands, practising social distancing and wearing a mask in enclosed spaces.
“As we have shown, we are prepared to take action decisively when it is necessary, and it is of course right to look how we make sure everyone understands and complies with the restrictions that will keep us all safe.”