Boris Johnson imposed brutal lockdowns on nearly 99 per cent of England today as he unveiled the new Tiers – despite fury at the ‘vague and inconsistent’ rules being used decide who faces curbs. 

Although London and Liverpool were spared the harshest Tier 3 in small glimmers of light, just 700,000 people – one per cent of the population – will be subject to the loosest grade of restrictions. Before November 5 there were 29million in the lowest tier.

Meanwhile, around 55million residents will be in the toughest two levels after the blanket national lockdown ends on December 2, according to the breakdown released today.   

Tier 3 will be brought in for huge swathes of the country including the bulk of the North, much of the Midlands, all of Kent, and Bristol – putting a wrecking ball through pubs, restaurants and clubs now forced to close except for takeaway.

Only Cornwall, Scilly and the Isle of Wight have been put into the loosest Tier 1, which allows socialising inside homes and pubs subject to the Rule of Six. 

As a result most of England will be banned from mixing indoors with other households, apart from five days over Christmas. Pubs in Tier 2 will only be able to serve alcohol with ‘substantial’ meals. 

Boris Johnson (left) is out of self-isolation and was in the Commons for the statement by Matt Hancock (right) today. The PM will hold a press conference this evening

Tiers ‘postcode checker’ crashes on launch 

The Government postcode checker for finding out which tier your local area has been placed into after lockdown crashed today just minutes after going live.

Those inputting their postcode on the website this morning were told: ‘Sorry, we’re experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments.’

Others were given a different message saying: ‘We’re experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later. You can find coronavirus information on Gov.UK.’

The checker went live on the website shortly after 11am, around half an hour before Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the details in the House of Commons.

Britons were left frustrated by the issue, posting a series of memes – with one saying: ‘Can’t catch Covid if you’re at home constantly refreshing a postcode checker.’

The chairman of the influential Tory 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, declared he will vote against the lockdown system next week.

The Altrincham and Sale MP accused the government of being ‘unreasonable’ and failing to assess the situation in specific areas. 

He said the decisions were being taken ‘on a county-wide basis where it is not justified’ instead of ‘looking at the actual local data and the facts on the ground’.

Sir Graham told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘I think when we look, in particular, at the experience of places like Greater Manchester… I think there is a limit to what it is reasonable to expect communities to absorb.’

He added:  ‘I will vote against it.

‘I have severe reservations on so many different levels.

‘I do think that the policies have been far too authoritarian.

‘I think they have interfered in people’s private and personal lives in a way which is unacceptable.’

Another Kent MP, Sir Roger Gale warned people would merely ‘skip over the boundary’ to go to a pub in neighbouring Tier 2 areas.

He told Sky News: ‘The objective of the exercise has been trying to introduce a scheme that the public will accept.

‘We know that it’s high in Thanet, in Ashford it’s nothing like as high (in terms of infection rates).

‘Are they going to be happy with that? No they’re not and what will happen of course is people will skip over the boundary, or try and skip over the boundary, to go to a pub or a restaurant that is able to be open if there is one in Tier 2 or in Tier 1 fairly nearby.

‘That’s the last thing we want.’ 

Tory rebel ringleader Steve Baker warned that the government must explain how it is balancing the economic harm with public health.

‘The authoritarianism at work today is truly appalling. But is it necessary and proportionate to the threat from this disease?’ he tweeted.

‘On the economy and on coronavirus, I fear we are now so far down the rabbit hole that we have forgotten we even entered it.’ 

Former minister Sir Robert Syms said: ‘I have told Health Secretary that both urban and rural Dorset are bitterly disappointed to be in tier 2 .

‘I am not happy this could last until next April so I am likely to vote against next Tuesday.’

Conservative MP for Bournemouth East Tobias Ellwood said he was unhappy with the city being placed in Tier 2, adding that he would be voting against the Government on the restrictions.

He tweeted: ‘With only 160 cases per 100k I’m puzzled to see us placed in this tier which will cause further hardship for our hospitality industry. I will NOT be supporting the Gov’s motion to introduce this next week.’

Fellow Bournemouth MP Conor Burns also questioned the basis for the decision: ‘I am hugely disappointed that Bournemouth has been placed in Tier 2 and do not see how it is justified by any robust evidence or modeling… 

‘To retain public confidence the basis of the modelling on which decisions are being taken must be published.’ 

Damian Green, Conservative MP for Ashford and a former cabinet minister, tweeted: ‘I’m hugely disappointed that the whole of Kent has been put into Tier 3. Before lockdown we were in Tier 1 so what has lockdown achieved? We need the full analysis made public.’ 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock formally unveiled the breakdown of areas in the Commons after days of wrangling, saying the country has to stay ‘vigilant’. 

He also defended the criteria being used amid complaints that they are too vague and amount to ‘finger in the air’.

And he immediately signalled a retreat on the fortnightly reviews, suggesting that in fact the tiers could be rethought weekly. 

Amid shambolic scenes the government had set an online postcode checker live before the statement.

As residents, journalists and MPs scrambled to gather the news on what decisions had been taken, the website then promptly crashed under the weight of traffic.

Tier 3 means that millions of people face a ban on households mixing indoors and outdoors, and pubs will be only be able to provide takeaway service or must close altogether. 

The revised Tier 2 restrictions shut pubs unless they serve meals and order people not to meet other households indoors. 

Some 23million people will be in that category from next Wednesday, and 32million are in Tier 2.

London was spared after data showed coronavirus falling quickly in more than two-thirds of boroughs – and seemingly stalling in the rest. 

Liverpool has also run a successful campaign to control its outbreak after mass testing in the city. 

Mr Hancock pointed out that his own Suffolk constituency was going into Tier 2 despite having some of the lowest infection rates.

New coronavirus tiers: which one is your home in? 

TIER THREE: VERY HIGH

North East

Tees Valley Combined Authority:

Hartlepool

Middlesbrough

Stockton-on-Tees

Redcar and Cleveland

Darlington

North East Combined Authority:

Sunderland

South Tyneside

Gateshead

Newcastle upon Tyne

North Tyneside

County Durham

Northumberland

North West

Greater Manchester

Lancashire

Blackpool

Blackburn with Darwen

Yorkshire and The Humber

The Humber

West Yorkshire

South Yorkshire

West Midlands

Birmingham and Black Country

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

East Midlands

Derby and Derbyshire

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

Leicester and Leicestershire

Lincolnshire

South East

Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)

Kent and Medway

South West

Bristol

South Gloucestershire

North Somerset

TIER 2: HIGH

North West

Cumbria

Liverpool City Region

Warrington and Cheshire

Yorkshire

York

North Yorkshire

West Midlands

Worcestershire

Herefordshire

Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin

East Midlands

Rutland

Northamptonshire

East of England

Suffolk

Hertfordshire

Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough

Norfolk

Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea

Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes

London

All 32 boroughs plus the City of London

South East

East Sussex

West Sussex

Brighton and Hove

Surrey

Reading

Wokingham

Bracknell Forest

Windsor and Maidenhead

West Berkshire

Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton

Buckinghamshire

Oxfordshire

South West

South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor

Bath and North East Somerset

Dorset

Bournemouth

Christchurch

Poole

Gloucestershire

Wiltshire and Swindon

Devon

TIER 1: MEDIUM 

South East

Isle of Wight

South West

Cornwall

Isles of Scilly

In a nod to anger on the Tory benches, he said he knew that many other places would prefer to be in the lowest bracket.

And he rejected criticism that there are no specific thresholds for putting areas into the levels. 

Mr Hancock told MPs: ‘The indicators have been designed to give the government a picture of what is happening with the virus in any area so that suitable action can be taken. 

‘These key indicators need to be viewed in the context of how they interact with each other as well as the wider context but provide an important framework for decision making – assessing the underlying prevalence in addition to how the spread of the disease is changing in areas. 

‘Given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators.’ 

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth demanded that the government publishes a ‘scorecard’ showing exactly how each area measured against its criteria for deciding Tiers. 

In the Commons, Conservative MP Greg Smith said he was ‘incredibly disappointed’ his Buckingham constituency was placed in Tier 2.

He said it was a ‘decision that will be hard to understand in the rural communities of north Buckinghamshire that have relatively low infection rates, and a decision that will be hard to understand given that there has been zero consultation between central government and Buckinghamshire Council and our local NHS.’

Tory MP for York Outer Julian Sturdy urged the Government to review the situation every week, rather than once a fortnight.

Mr Hancock appeared to concede that should happen.

‘We will review these in a fortnight, and then regularly, by which he can reasonably take weekly,’ he said.

‘And we will have a weekly cycle of meetings with the CMO chairing a meeting typically on a Tuesday, I then chair the meeting on a Wednesday for an announcement on Thursday for any change to the tiers.’ 

Mr Hancock also admitted Tiers could be imposed on a more local basis in future – as happened in Slough this time. 

‘We are prepared to take those decisions at a lower-tier local authority area level. That is the exception rather than the norm but we will look at it every single week,’ he said. 

Downing Street denied that economic factors had played a part in the tier decision-making process and insisted London did not receive a special exemption from the toughest restrictions.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: ‘We have based tiers on the criteria that we have set out.

‘We have been clear on the criteria that we have based the tiering system on and you have got the WMS (written ministerial statement) that explains the rationale for each area.’

The spokesman was also asked why some areas that were in Tier 1 previously are now in Tier 3.

He said: ‘We’ve seen over the course of the pandemic transmission rates rise and fall in different areas at different times.

‘Obviously we introduced the tiers in advance of the national lockdown, which did play a part in stemming the transmission rates and the R rate of the virus.

‘And then we’ve recently seen data starting to reflect the impact of the national lockdown. As we always have, we will continue to keep all the data under review.’

North of Tyne elected mayor Jamie Driscoll said businesses need more information to plan.

‘Survival for businesses through January and February means trading in the run up to Christmas,’ he said.

‘I’ve asked the Government to provide clear criteria for how we exit a tier into a lower level of restrictions.

‘What number of cases, what R number, how much capacity do we need in our NHS to allow us to reopen hospitality businesses.

‘Vague criteria are not enough to help businesses plan.

‘They need to know now.’

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham criticised the lack of business support available to Tier 3 areas, and said he wanted the region moved down before Christmas if it continued to make progress.

He said: ‘Greater Manchester’s infection rate is reducing faster than any other part of the country but we have to accept that it is still significantly higher than the England average.

‘That said, if the current rate of improvement continues, we will be asking the Government to move our city-region into Tier 2 in two weeks’ time.

‘What we believe is completely wrong is the Government’s decision to provide no additional business support to areas in Tier 3 than those in Tiers 1 and 2.

‘The new Tier 3 will hit the hospitality sector extremely hard. While there are grants for businesses forced to close, there is no extra support for business which supply them like security, catering and cleaning.

‘This will cause real hardship for people whose jobs will be affected and risk the loss of many businesses.’

Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street tweeted: ‘Tier 3 for the WM is very disappointing, but we must now focus on getting out ASAP.

‘The trajectory is good, and our stay should be short-lived if people stick to the rules.

‘However more support is needed whilst in T3, particularly for the hospitality and live events sectors.’

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis warned that ‘lockdown must not become limbo’.

Mr Jarvis, who is also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said: ‘I welcome Government plans to review our tier arrangements every two weeks, because every extra day we are under restrictions could be the difference between a business surviving the pandemic or going under.

‘It is now essential we get a roadmap to get us out of Tier 3 as a matter of urgency.’

He said: ‘We need absolute clarity and consistency from the government about the criteria for areas moving between the Tiers. We need a test and trace system that is fit for purpose and we need clear communications

‘There is light at the end of the tunnel. In South Yorkshire the rate of new infections, and more importantly the number of older people in hospital with the virus, is moving in the right direction.

‘We’ve been under tighter restrictions in South Yorkshire since October 24, and they are slowly suffocating businesses, particularly in the hospitality and events sectors. They are now being hit again just as they enter their busiest time of year.’

Mr Jarvis added: ‘It’s deeply concerning that the government yet again excluded mayors and local leaders from the decision-making process around the new Tiering arrangements.’

The decision to save London from Tier 3 will be a relief to many in the hospitality industry who will be able to reopen with limitations when the current national lockdown ends on December 2.

But Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon that the capital is more likely to move in the other direction and said: ‘There is a lot of work to do in London to keep it in Tier 2’. Mr Hancock has placed all of neighbouring Kent in Tier 3.

The capital’s top restaurateurs and hoteliers had warned that placing the capital in Tier 3 would wipe out half the hospitality industry in the city and trigger an ‘atomic bomb’ of job losses after Christmas.

Leading restaurateur Richard Caring, who owns chains including The Ivy and Bill’s, said he was ‘very glad’ that London was in Tier 2, but if it had gone into Tier 3 then ‘we might as well have turned out the lights’. He told MailOnline: ‘These so-called politicians are advised purely by scientists and not commercial reality. They are destroying people faster than this virus.’

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was a ‘right decision’ because ‘Londoners have done exactly what has been asked of them since the start of this pandemic’ – but slammed the Government for continuing with a curfew on pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants.

But he added ‘I am extremely disappointed that the Government is sticking with specific measures that seem to cause more harm than good. 

‘I am pleased we persuaded the Government to get rid of the 10pm curfew but extending it to 11pm, when it should be scrapped altogether, is a mistake. 

‘It is a real blow to pubs, bars and restaurants which have endured such a difficult year and deserve better’. 

Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen said the Tier 3 restrictions in the city were a ‘bitter blow’.

He said: ‘It’s a bitter blow for people in Nottingham who have done the right thing, followed the rules and done an incredible job of driving down the rate of Covid infections from the highest in the country to below the national average.

‘We had hoped that this would have meant we would be spared going into Tier 3 and the extra restrictions that come with that being imposed on local people and struggling local businesses.

‘We will need Government to provide further support for businesses – especially hospitality where they will be particularly badly hit – to see them through this, as the amounts offered so far won’t be enough.

‘However, we must of course accept that these are the new rules we must abide by, and given the valiant efforts locally in the past few weeks, I have no doubt that we will continue to drive down infection rates and be able to leave Tier 3 and enter Tier 2 very soon.

‘The tiers are being reviewed every 14 days so the hope must be that we could be into Tier 2 before Christmas.’ 

Lincolnshire County Council’s leader has described the county being placed under Tier 3 restrictions as ‘disappointing’ and said ‘it doesn’t make sense’.

Cllr Martin Hill said: ‘It’s very disappointing that the whole of Lincolnshire has gone into Tier 3 as we are seeing infection rates fall, especially in those few districts that were previously causing concern – and this could have a crippling effect on our hospitality sector.

‘Although our figures have been high in some districts and lower elsewhere, there’s a clear levelling off and drop in the numbers as the lockdown restrictions and the considerable efforts of our residents begin to take effect.

‘While some of our districts have infection rates well below the England average, why should the whole of Lincolnshire go into Tier 3 for the sake of higher rates in some districts – it doesn’t make sense? 

Mr Johnson looked happy to be out of self-isolation as he waved to photographers in Downing Street today

The announcement on Tiers was accompanied with narrative explanations of why each area has been classified – but critics say there should be specific numerical thresholds so people have clarity 

Coronavirus cases have dropped in two thirds of all London boroughs and the city will enter Tier 2 from December 2

Steve Baker and Sir Robert Syms were among the Tory MPs voicing anger at the draconian restrictions

The PM wrestled with his mask as he exited his official car on returning from the Commons to No10 today

The ONS produced its latest infection survey today, showing that the North has seen some of the highest positive test rates 

Sturgeon ends UK united front by saying Christmas bubbles should be no more than eight people 

Nicola Sturgeon turned Ebeneezer Scrooge today as she told Scots to limit ‘Christmas Bubbles’ to just eight people – and warned against hugs for granny.

The Scottish Government issued its guidance today for the festive season, days after a ‘four nation’ approach for the UK was put into place.

It was expected to allow people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to follow the same rules, and cross borders to be with loved ones.

But the Scots today said it would ‘recommend’ only eight adults and teenagers in a bubble formed of three households – although there is no limit on children under 12.

And it also suggested that the two-metre social distancing rule be maintained as much as possible, urging Scots not to embrace loved ones they may not have seen for weeks and months.

The rules are in contrast with those in England, where under the three-household plan there are no limits on numbers.

Earlier, Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted people will ‘see a difference’ when England’s national lockdown ends next week. He told Sky News today: ‘Whichever tier you’re in I think people will see a tangible change.

‘That said, things are obviously not normal and I can’t pretend that next week things are going to feel like they were before the spring.’ 

The Prime Minister, who will hold a press conference this evening, told Conservative MPs last night that the new measures were going to be ‘very tough’. 

But he is braced for a massive backlash from his own benches, amid anger that the measures will destroy thousands of businesses, amount to ‘lockdown by another name’, and the criteria used to make decisions are too ‘finger in the air’.  

Ministers have tried to cool the tensions by stressing that the tiers will be reviewed every two weeks, with the first due on December 16. 

This holds out a prospective carrot that restrictions could be eased even before the ‘Christmas Bubble’ relaxation on December 23.

A study published yesterday found the previous Tier One was ‘clearly inadequate’ last time around – only one area out of the 169 previously under these rules saw a fall in cases. 

The tiered system will kick at the end of national lockdown on December 2 – but the measures go further than the previous regime, meaning Tier Three is effectively a transition into full lockdown.

Areas which make progress in slowing the spread of the virus could still be moved down a tier before Christmas, however, with the first review of the allocations due to take place by December 16.

The key decisions on lockdown levels were made at a meeting of the Covid O committee last night, led by Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock. They were rubber-stamped by the Cabinet before Mr Hancock made a statement to the Commons.    

Relief as London goes into Tier 2 – but Hancock warns it is still at risk 

London has today been placed in Tier 2 of Boris Johnson’s controversial Covid-19 restrictions – but Matt Hancock has already warned its 8.9million residents that he believes the city is perilously close to moving up into Tier 3.

The decision to save the capital from Tier 3 will be a relief to many in the hospitality industry who will be able to reopen with limitations when the current national lockdown ends on December 2.

Coronavirus cases are falling quickly in more than two-thirds of London boroughs – and appear to be stalling in the rest – and critics have demanded the PM is now transparent about how the capital can get into Tier 1 as soon as possible.

But Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon that the capital is more likely to move in the other direction and said: ‘There is a lot of work to do in London to keep it in Tier 2’. Mr Hancock has placed all of neighbouring Kent in Tier 3.

The capital’s top restaurateurs and hoteliers had warned that placing the capital in Tier 3 would wipe out half the hospitality industry in the city and trigger an ‘atomic bomb’ of job losses after Christmas.

Leading restaurateur Richard Caring, who owns chains including The Ivy and Bill’s, said he was ‘very glad’ that London was in Tier 2, but if it had gone into Tier 3 then ‘we might as well have turned out the lights’. He told MailOnline: ‘These so-called politicians are advised purely by scientists and not commercial reality. They are destroying people faster than this virus.’

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was a ‘right decision’ because ‘Londoners have done exactly what has been asked of them since the start of this pandemic’ – but slammed the Government for continuing with a curfew on pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants.

It comes after leading Oxford University academic Carl Heneghan said areas placed into the strictest Tiers 2 and 3 could be in a ‘very different position’ next week.

Professor Heneghan, an epidemiologist, said if rates continue to fall ‘it will be hard to justify tougher tiered restrictions’.

Instead, there should be clear criteria which decides whether areas face the strictest measures.

He insisted: ‘By the time we get to December 2 we will be in very different position than we are now, therefore we need to be much more flexible and reactive, and set out clear criteria.’ 

He told MailOnline: ‘There is no point in saying to people ‘this is where you are now [in terms of Covid] and you’ll be in this tier next week’.

‘We should be explaining to people the two important criteria that should decide which areas go into which tiers – symptomatic cases and hospital rates. 

‘For instance, say Kent is announced to be in Tier Three and it has 50 per cent of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, you could tell people they have to adjust that to 30 per cent to come out of Tier Three. That’s objective criteria.’

His warning came as the UK recorded its highest daily virus death toll since the beginning of May. 

Official data showed 696 deaths were confirmed yesterday. This is the highest since 726 deaths were reported on May 5. 

Speaking to a restive 1922 Committee of his backbench MPs last night, the Prime Minister said: ‘I see us steadily making progress over the next four months. They will really erode the ability of the virus to do damage to our population.’

Economic forecasts put forward by the Treasury watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, have worked on the basis that ‘high to medium’ measures – Tiers 2 and 3 – will be in force until the middle of next year.

But the Prime Minister apparently told his MPs he didn’t agree with their ‘gloomy prediction’, and believed that vaccines would haul Britain out of the mire before then.

Mr Johnson compared the mass testing and vaccine programmes to ‘steadily starting to insert graphite rods into a nuclear reactor’. 

Nonetheless, there remains serious upset on the Tory backbenches over the tier system.

Jake Berry, of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said: ‘We repeat our call for a clear route out of the tiering system and to make sure that the North does not get stuck in a Hotel California lockdown where we can enter Tier Three but never leave.’  

These charts show how the infection profile has changed across the UK between mid September (left) and mid-November

Covid-19 cases have fallen across most of the North of England since lockdown was imposed, but they are rising in a corner of the South East. The percentage change is based on comparing data from the week ending November 15 to the week ending November 8. It comes as the Government prepares to unveil its tier system

Official data showed 696 deaths were confirmed yesterday. This is the highest since 726 deaths were reported on May 5



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