London in Tier 3 from Wednesday after 'big increase' in infections

London will move into Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday, December 16 following "very sharp, exponential rises" in cases in the region.  Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, told the House of Commons that Greater London and large swathes of the south-east of England would move to the toughest level of restrictions from 12.01am on Wednesday morning. On December 14, the same day Matt Hancock announced London would enter Tier 3, records showed the capital had the highest weekly case rates of any region in the country. There were approximately 191 cases per 100,000 people, on the week ending December 6. The places being moved to Tier 3 are Greater London, the South and West of Essex, which includes Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford, along with Thurrock and Southend-On-Sea borough councils, and the south of Hertfordshire which means Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and the Three Rivers local authority. In some of the areas, coronavirus rates are doubling every seven days and not just among school-age children, but all age groups including the over-60s, Mr Hancock revealed. He added: "I know that this is difficult news and I know that it will mean plans disrupted and that for businesses affected, it will be a significant blow, but this action is absolutely essential not just to keep people safe, but because we've seen early action can prevent more damaging and longer lasting problems later." Around three quarters of the 32 London boroughs have seen a rise in cases, particularly among secondary school-age children.  And Mr Hancock revealed that a new variant of coronavirus may be responsible for the "faster spread" in south-east England. He said: "Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the South of England. "We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out." On the evening London was placed into Tier 3, Prof Chris Whitty stated it was essential to take “rapid action” to lower the infection numbers. Prof Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London also added that it was a pivotal moment for London and the south-east of England, before reinforcing Whitty’s comments that these areas had to take “quick and decisive action”.  Professor Fenton added there is a "strong connection” between the raising levels in London and the south east, so it is important that local officials work together across the region. However, the Professor added that Londoners have been "fantastic" in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He suggested the new measures are aimed at helping "us get ahead of the curve". Conservative MP Nickie Aiken said Tier 3 restrictions in London would have "devastating economic consequences", but she accepted they were needed to slow the spread of coronavirus. The Cities of London and Westminster representative said: "I am bitterly disappointed in what we're having to go through in London at the moment. I have been fighting hard against having Tier 3 imposed on us but, having seen the data, I now accept that it is necessary to protect our NHS and our health. "However there is no doubt that Tier 3 restrictions will have devastating economic consequences for central London - especially on our hospitality sector and will be hard on residents here as well." The director of the Theatres Trust labelled the move as a "disaster" for theatres. Jon Morgan said: "It is a disaster for London's theatres that the capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will move into Tier 3. Theatres have worked incredibly hard to create safe environments for audiences and through no fault of their own will now face enormous financial losses." Earlier in the morning, cabinet ministers were summoned to an emergency meeting of the 'Covid O' sub-committee, which formulates and advises the Prime Minister on coronavirus policy. Ahead of the tier announcement Sadiq Khan called for the capital’s schools to shut from December 14, putting him on a collision course with the Government. Greenwich and Islington councils have already advised schools in their respective boroughs to move to online learning as soon as possible, despite mass testing is to be rolled out in schools across the capital, as ministers launched a last-ditch effort to avoid closures. At a press conference on December 14, Professor Kevin Fenton, the regional director of Public Health England, concluded the briefing by encouraging Londoners to accept the vaccine. Speaking on the same day that the Government announced London would move to Tier 3; he stated the jab was “highly effective”, before suggesting it is one of the “keys to unlock the door to the e

London in Tier 3 from Wednesday after 'big increase' in infections

London will move into Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday, December 16 following "very sharp, exponential rises" in cases in the region. 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, told the House of Commons that Greater London and large swathes of the south-east of England would move to the toughest level of restrictions from 12.01am on Wednesday morning.

On December 14, the same day Matt Hancock announced London would enter Tier 3, records showed the capital had the highest weekly case rates of any region in the country. There were approximately 191 cases per 100,000 people, on the week ending December 6.

The places being moved to Tier 3 are Greater London, the South and West of Essex, which includes Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford, along with Thurrock and Southend-On-Sea borough councils, and the south of Hertfordshire which means Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and the Three Rivers local authority.

In some of the areas, coronavirus rates are doubling every seven days and not just among school-age children, but all age groups including the over-60s, Mr Hancock revealed.

He added: "I know that this is difficult news and I know that it will mean plans disrupted and that for businesses affected, it will be a significant blow, but this action is absolutely essential not just to keep people safe, but because we've seen early action can prevent more damaging and longer lasting problems later."

Around three quarters of the 32 London boroughs have seen a rise in cases, particularly among secondary school-age children. 

And Mr Hancock revealed that a new variant of coronavirus may be responsible for the "faster spread" in south-east England.

He said: "Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the South of England.

"We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out."

On the evening London was placed into Tier 3, Prof Chris Whitty stated it was essential to take “rapid action” to lower the infection numbers. Prof Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London also added that it was a pivotal moment for London and the south-east of England, before reinforcing Whitty’s comments that these areas had to take “quick and decisive action”. 

Professor Fenton added there is a "strong connection” between the raising levels in London and the south east, so it is important that local officials work together across the region. However, the Professor added that Londoners have been "fantastic" in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He suggested the new measures are aimed at helping "us get ahead of the curve".

Conservative MP Nickie Aiken said Tier 3 restrictions in London would have "devastating economic consequences", but she accepted they were needed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Cities of London and Westminster representative said: "I am bitterly disappointed in what we're having to go through in London at the moment. I have been fighting hard against having Tier 3 imposed on us but, having seen the data, I now accept that it is necessary to protect our NHS and our health.

"However there is no doubt that Tier 3 restrictions will have devastating economic consequences for central London - especially on our hospitality sector and will be hard on residents here as well."

The director of the Theatres Trust labelled the move as a "disaster" for theatres.

Jon Morgan said: "It is a disaster for London's theatres that the capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will move into Tier 3. Theatres have worked incredibly hard to create safe environments for audiences and through no fault of their own will now face enormous financial losses."

Earlier in the morning, cabinet ministers were summoned to an emergency meeting of the 'Covid O' sub-committee, which formulates and advises the Prime Minister on coronavirus policy.

Ahead of the tier announcement Sadiq Khan called for the capital’s schools to shut from December 14, putting him on a collision course with the Government.

Greenwich and Islington councils have already advised schools in their respective boroughs to move to online learning as soon as possible, despite mass testing is to be rolled out in schools across the capital, as ministers launched a last-ditch effort to avoid closures.

At a press conference on December 14, Professor Kevin Fenton, the regional director of Public Health England, concluded the briefing by encouraging Londoners to accept the vaccine. Speaking on the same day that the Government announced London would move to Tier 3; he stated the jab was “highly effective”, before suggesting it is one of the “keys to unlock the door to the end of this pandemic”. 

Use our postcode tool to find out which tier your area is in.

What tier is London in?

London will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday, December 16. The capital went into Tier 2 on December 2, despite the fact that large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West were placed in the most restrictive Tier 3. 

The coronavirus case rate in the capital shows 18,880 people have tested positive in the past seven days, a rate of 210.7 per 100,000 people.

It means London is now higher than many other Tier 3 areas, such as the North East where case rates have decreased to 154.2 per 100,000 people.

As well as this, an analysis has found that the capital is now recording more cases per day, for its size, than 45 per cent of the 61 other authorities living under Tier 3.

Following the rise in cases in recent days, the Government has decided to place the capital into the highest tier of restrictions. 

London was seeing a rise in cases even during November's national lockdown, figures showed.

Professor Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia said: “There were more cases at the end of lockdown than at the start in London.

"It is very worrying when cases were still continuing to increase in these regions despite the national lockdown. It is quite likely that case numbers will start to accelerate even more in coming days probably including in areas not yet showing an increase because of more movement around London."

In the lead up to the change, a health source had said Public Health England “is starting to get worried about it again” as the data shows cases on the rise in the capital.

The insider added that there was “concern across the system” about the number of Londoners out shopping and visiting restaurants on the first weekend since national lockdown measures were lifted.

Footage of densely crowded streets and crammed queues in the West End over that weekend showed hordes of shoppers ignoring, or unable to obey, social distancing measures. 

A crowd of people outside Harrods in London on December 5 Credit: Elliott Franks 

The Telegraph reported on December 14 that a health source said it now appeared “inevitable” that the capital will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions - closing all pubs and restaurants.

The source said the latest data was “terrifying,” with rates in the capital worse than those of Liverpool or Manchester when they entered Tier 3, giving the Government little choice but to introduce the harshest restrictions.

What is causing the rise in cases?

The latest data shows that there has been an increase in the number of coronavirus cases in secondary school children in the London and South East region, compared to other age groups. 

With cases rising in schools, there is concern that children will mix with older relatives over the Christmas period, when tier restrictions are loosened between December 23 and 27. 

Following this information, council leaders in Greenwich and Islington have advised schools to move to online learning from December 15, despite opposition from the Department of Education. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also called for all schools in the London area to be closed as soon as possible in an attempt to combat the "catastrophic" rise in cases. This follows the roll out of mass testing for schools in the capital, where cases are currently highest in the North-East of the region.

How long will London be in Tier 3?

London is set to be in Tier 3 for at least a week after Mr Hancock reportedly told MPs in a phone call that the next review of England's tiers will be on December 23.

That is a week sooner than the normal review period as previously committed to by the Government, which took place every 14 days.

Is all of London in the same tier?

All of London has been placed in the same tier because of how connected the city is, which is especially true of its Underground transport network.

In a written statement to Parliament, Matt Hancock acknowledged "the situation in London is not uniform throughout the city".

"Thirteen of the 33 boroughs have case rates which are 10 per cent or more higher than a week ago and 10 boroughs where case rates for over-60s are above 150 per 100,000," he said.

Boris Johnson previously said London is “held together by a very dense mass transit system”, which would make it difficult to split the city into different tiers.

“Although there are fewer people on it right now the transmission within London means that it's quite difficult to separate one bit of London from another,” he said. 

How are tiers determined?

Five categories are used to determine which level an area falls into. Ministers have made the decisions based on public health recommendations informed by the following factors:

  1. The rate of infection, particularly among the over-60s
  2. How quickly case rates are rising or falling
  3. Positivity in the general population
  4. Pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity
  5. Local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreaks

If any of these five indicators are not improving, or are showing signs of getting significantly worse, an area may be moved into a higher tier. This happened in the case of Greater Manchester before the second national lockdown. 

Only a few, mostly rural areas are in Tier 1, the one level at which indoor socialising with other households is permitted.

What does Tier 3 mean?

Tier 3 is the toughest set of local restrictions in England, resulting in a ban of people meeting inside or outside, unless there are in a support bubble. However, the 'Rule of Six' does still apply in limited public places, such as parks and beaches. This currently applies to regions such as Greater Manchester, Kent and West Yorkshire. 

Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be able to serve takeaway services, and hotels will have to close their doors until the tier level in the local area drops back into Tier 2.  

Indoor entertainment venues, such as theatres and cinemas, will also have to close. Amateur outdoor sports will be allowed to take place, but spectators will not be able to attend any sporting event. Up to 2,000 people were allowed to attend sport events under Tier 2 rules.

Non-essential shops are allowed to remain open, as are schools, universities and workplaces, although people are advised to work from home where possible.