Around 17million people living in parts of England that have seen their coronavirus outbreaks shrink for at least two weeks in a row will be plunged into the toughest tiers next week when the country’s lockdown finally ends, MailOnline’s analysis has revealed.
As many as a third of England’s authorities – 51 out of 149 – saw coronavirus infections drop in the seven-day spells ending November 15 and November 22 according to Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report.
They include all 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester – home to 2.8million alone – and authorities subject to tough restrictions for months, such as Blackburn with Darwen, Gateshead and Lancashire – which are all earmarked for Tier Three.
Boris Johnson – has revealed 99 per cent of England will live under toughened restrictions come December 2 – said Tiers would be determined based on the rate of fall in infections, alongside pressure on the NHS, the total number of cases and the rate of infection in the over 60s who are more at risk from the virus.
But officials have refused to reveal the exact criteria needed for areas facing lockdown in all-but-name to escape the tougher curbs, meaning the fate of millions is left in the hands of the secretive Joint Biosecurity Centre, which has previously been slammed as being ‘far too opaque’.
Experts said today they felt ministers had been ‘cautious’ when allocating the tiers, due to an expected jump in infections in the run-up to Christmas. Once the festive period has passed, however, they said many areas may be able to drop to the lower tiers.
But Housing Minister Robert Jenrick, who headed up negotiations with local authorities under the old tiered system, offered a ray of hope today when he said areas may move down the tiers before Christmas.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty struck a very different tone yesterday, however, when he suggested that Tier Two – with bans on mixing between households – would be as good as it gets for most.
He said that the new Tier One is similar to that in the former system and would only be available to areas with very low case rates.
The tiers were announced yesterday, and will go to a vote in the Commons next week. Once imposed they will be reviewed on a two-week rolling basis. MPs from all parties have voiced opposition to the plans, claiming how they were allocated was confusing and that boroughs with low infection rates within counties should have been moved to lower levels of restrictions.
It comes after Public Health England’s surveillance report said today that only three local authorities in England – Medway, East Sussex, and Redbridge in London, saw a fall in infection rates in the week to November 22.
Britain recorded 16,022 new coronavirus cases today, a drop of 20.9 per cent compared to the same time last week showing the second wave has peaked. The country also recorded 521 deaths, a 1.9 per cent rise on last Friday.
LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER: Liverpool has been placed into Tier Two after at least two consecutive weeks of falling infections. It had been under Tier Three in the previous system. But Manchester will remain in Tier Three curbs despite also seeing its infections fall for at least two consecutive weeks
Only three areas in England saw their Covid-19 infection rates rise in the week ending November 22, according to the latest data from Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report
COVID-19 CASES STARTED FALLING IN OCTOBER, SAY CAMBRIDGE SCIENTISTS
Covid-19 cases started falling in the country as early as October – before a second national lockdown was imposed, according to revised modelling by scientists at the University of Cambridge.
The number of new infections a day peaked on October 19, they claim, when it reached 48,500, but since declined to 41,200 by November 22.
Their estimate is based on the number of Covid-19 deaths recorded each day, alongside the number of people testing positive for antibodies against the virus.
Department of Health data shows that the average number of confirmed cases a day peaked on November 16, at 25,331, and has since declined to an average of 17,329 on November 26.
The scientists – which manage the Nowcast and Forecast model that is sent to SAGE – said the growth rate in cases for England has dipped to -0.01 a day, adding to known evidence that the second wave is shrinking.
They also found that London had the highest rate of infection in the country, followed by the North West. The South West still had the lowest attack rate of infections.
Announcing the results the programme leader Professor Daniela de Angelis, a biostatistician, said: ‘The pandemic is slowing down.
‘(The fall) likely results from a combination of the social restrictions introduced in October, the temporary decrease in activity over the half-term period, and the ongoing lockdown.
‘Disentangling the contribution of these factors is challenging.’
She added: ‘We remain concerned that R may not have fallen to a level sufficiently below 1, which strongly suggests that effective measures to control infection rates must continue to be in place after the end of the current lockdown period.’
The number of people set to enter Tier Two or Tier Three restrictions despite at least two weeks of falling infections was found by extracting the population of each of the 51 local authorities where this had happened from the ONS population estimates by area for mid-2019 and adding these together.
In Greater Manchester, the boroughs had an average infection rate drop of 20.6 per cent in the week to November 15, which almost doubled the next week to 35.9 per cent taking the region to 265.5 cases per 100,000 residents.
But they were still slapped with Tier Three curbs, sparking fury from local politicians and MPs who complained the region had already been subject to the toughest restrictions before the national lockdown.
Its mayor Andy Burnham accused Westminster of trying to ‘level down’ the North with Tier Three. ‘It’s unfair and the opposite of what the Government has promised to do,’ he said. ‘Ministers must review this and provide more financial support.’
In the Liverpool city region their infection rates dropped by 38.1 per cent in the week to November 15, and then by a slower 13.8 per cent in the following seven-day period. But their infection rate was much lower than Greater Manchester’s, at 151 per 100,000 on average.
The drop in Covid-19 cases may be why the region went into Tier Two, along with lowered pressure on the NHS.
Its mayor Joe Anderson thanked Liverpudlians for following the stringent restrictions, and heralded the lower tier as ‘good news’ but ‘there is still a long way to go’.
‘Tier Two is good news for our city but we can’t afford to be complacent,’ he said. ‘Covid-19 rates are coming down and we are leading the way nationally, but they are still high compared to August, for example.’
He added: ‘We must still look after each other and save lives. Hands-Face-Space.’
Lancashire – which includes the towns of Preston, Pendle and Hyndburn – was the local authority with the largest population of 1.2million to see infections drop for two consecutive weeks, but still be placed in Tier Three.
The area recorded an 11 per cent fall in the week to November 15, which then sped up to 24.3 per cent. Lancashire’s overall infection rate was at 227.4 per 100,000.
Council leaders responded with fury when the whole county was placed in Tier Three and demanded that boroughs with lower infection rates such as Lancaster, Blackpool and Fylde are moved into Tier Two.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said Tier Three threatened to ‘level down’ the north
Lancaster’s council leader Dr Erica Lewis said they ‘did not deserve Tier Three’ and warned ‘the campaign for a local rather than regional assessment starts now.’ South Ribble’s council leader Paul Foster said he was ‘livid’ at the restrictions, and said the decision provides ‘no hope for so many’.
Nottinghamshire was the second largest – at 828,000 – to still be placed in Tier Three, despite two weeks of falling infections. The county, which was moved into the old Tier Three before lockdown, saw infections drop by 13 per cent in the first week and then 24.7 per cent at the latest date for which data is available. Its infection rate is 212.5 per 100,000.
Its council leader David Mellen said they had seen a ‘dramatic and impressive turnaround’ in infections before Christmas. ‘We feel that people in Nottingham have worked hard to bring down the rate of Covid-19 in our communities and among our older population – and feel our position in the tier system should reflect this,’ he said.
Out of all the boroughs with falls for two consecutive weeks, Torbay saw the biggest fall in the second by 37.1 per cent to 107.9 per 100,000.
It was followed by Trafford, in Greater Manchester, where infections dropped by 46.9 per cent to 164.3 per 100,000. And Sefton, in Liverpool, where they fell by 45.2 per cent to 140.7 per 100,000.
No London boroughs – which are all to be plunged into Tier Two – have recorded falls in Covid-19 infection rates over the past two consecutive weeks.
There will be 32million people in Tier Three and 23million in Tier Two when lockdown ends on December 2. Only 700,000 people in three areas – Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight – will be in the coveted Tier One.
MIDLANDS AND YORKSHIRE AND THE HUMBER: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10
WEST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10
EAST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10
SOUTH EAST AND LONDON: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10
SOUTH WEST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10
HOW CLOSE IS YOUR AREA TO MOVING UP OR DOWN THE COVID TIERS?
An official graph laying out coronavirus outbreaks across the country suggests there are parts of the North of England and Midlands that could be ‘de-escalated’ from Tier Two or Tier Three in January if they can continue to squash the disease.
The chart, published last night by the Department of Health but produced by the secretive Joint Biosecurity Centre which pulls the strings behind local lockdowns, shows that some parts of the country are seeing the fastest falls in infection rate and health bosses are monitoring their ‘continued improvement’.
Although much of the north of the country and the Midlands will end up in the toughest Tier Three rules when England’s national lockdown ends on December 2, many areas may already be on the way to seeing economically-crippling rules loosened.
The graphs will undoubtedly fuel demands for No 10 to urgently re-assess the tiering structure, with Boris Johnson facing war with up to 70 of his own Tory MPs who are angry that their constituencies face rules that are too harsh. Only people in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will be allowed to socialise indoors in December.
Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire are already close to dropping into Tier Two thanks to falling infection rates, the graphic suggests, with them appearing closer to the yellow Tier Two group than they do to Tier Three in red. Stratford upon Avon was one place that caused uproar when it was revealed to be in the toughest curbs because the infection rate there is only around half of the national average.
And the graphic shows rapid declines in cases in South Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire could stand them in good stead in the coming weeks.
PHE’s report said: ‘This chart shows some decreases in weekly case rates in the north of England, and other areas where case rates are high but declining. Continued improvement over the coming period may make these areas candidates for de-escalation in the New Year.’
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he felt ministers had been on the ‘cautious side’ when implementing the tiers because of Christmas.
‘There will be an increase as we move up to Christmas almost inevitably,’ he said. ‘I strongly suspect what’s going to happen is we’ll have Christmas and then you’ll have to wait about three weeks afterwards before anything changes – but then I suspect we will start to see a relaxation’.
It can take up to two weeks for someone who has been infected with the virus to develop the tell-tale symptoms – a continuous cough, high temperature and loss of taste and smell – get tested, and then receive a positive result.
He added he had expected infections to fall ‘faster’ during the lockdown period than the data has revealed.
‘If you think back to April we were seeing R values down to the 0.6 to 0.8 range,’ he said. ‘But by day 14 it wasn’t that impressive to be honest. (During lockdown) those authorities that had been in Tier Three their R value was a very satisfactory 0.85 but in Tier Two it was only 0.97 and those that had been in Tier One it was 0.96.
‘(Infections) were a bit slow coming down and not a dramatic reduction as we saw in the spring, but it has been a bit of a lighter lockdown.’
Boris Johnson was at war with his own MPs over the curbs last night, as the Prime Minister faced mutiny from up to 70 Tories in what they said would be the ‘biggest revolt of this Parliament’.
Many boroughs and postcodes where there are virtually no infections have been forced into the highest tiers under the plans because of the county-wide approach taken.
MPs expressed ‘concern’ at the move yesterday with Damian Green, who represents Tier Three-bound Ashford in Kent, insisting the Government’s full analysis and data must be published soon.
Ex-minister Tobias Ellwood warning on BBC Breakfast: ‘My biggest gripe I think is the data we are using. They made a decision on November 25 using last week’s data for the vote that is going to happen next week.
‘I would really like the decisions to be made using up-to-date data a couple of days before these new restrictions come in.
‘I would also go further than that to say, I would have liked to have seen a blanket order across the country of a travel ban of maybe up to 10 to 15 miles so that areas that are in Tier One are better protected and areas that are in Tier Three can be better targeted with support.
‘The fact is people can still move around an awful lot and I’m afraid the virus has the ability to move.’
Under Tier Three restrictions – the harshest and to be imposed over swathes of the North of England, Bristol and Staffordshire – restaurants and pubs are forced to offer takeaway only and residents are banned from mixing with people from other households in order to drive down the infection rate.
Under Tier Two restaurants can re-open, but only to offer ‘substantial meals’, meaning many may stay away from their local food outlets and some bars and pubs will also be forced to shutter.
But in Tier One most freedoms are restored, with only the Rule of Six, 10pm curfew, and other nation measures still needing to be applied.
Gyms will remain open under all tiers, although advice to work from home will remain in force in all areas.
The data published by Public Health England is updated every week on a rolling basis, because the back-log in labs means it can take more than a week for a swab to be tested and completed. This means the percentage falls for many counties may become smaller in the coming week when the data is re-published.
Seventeen-million people in England will be placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions, despite infections falling in their areas for two weeks in a row. This includes Greater Manchester, where infections have fallen across all 10 boroughs for two consecutive weeks. Pictured is the Arndale shopping centre in the city centre
WHICH AREAS SAW FALLS IN COVID-19 RATES FOR TWO WEEKS IN A ROW?
St Helens (L)
% fall week to Nov 15
% fall week to Nov 22
WHICH AREAS SAW FALLS IN COVID-19 RATES FOR TWO WEEKS IN A ROW? (CONT.)
% fall week to Nov 15
% fall week to Nov 22