NURSERIES will stay open in Tier 4 areas – as officials prepare to announce that schools in Covid hotspots will remain shut for at least two more weeks.
No10 officials have today confirmed the good news, which will come as a relief to millions of mums and dads living in tough restrictions.
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A spokesperson for the PM said there are "no plans" to slash provision for tots.
But it's bad news for parents with older children – as all primary and secondary schools in Tier 4 will stay closed on January 4.
It comes as a mutant strain of Covid wreaks havoc in London and the south east.
People with the variant are 54 per cent more likely to pass it on to others, according to Public Health England.
Despite being more contagious, the mutation does not appear to cause worse symptoms or more deaths, and it is no more infectious among children than other strains.
However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is set to confirm this afternoon that schools in the hardest-hit Covid areas will remain closed because of spiralling cases.
It comes despite Michael Gove saying just days ago that he was "confident" schools would reopen across England.
The full list of areas where schools will remain shut until at least January 18 has not yet been revealed.
However, they will include hotspots with the worst infection rates.
Elsewhere across England – in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 and some lesser-hit Tier 4 areas – primary schools will return on January 4 as planned.
And secondary school Years 11 and 13 – those facing critical exams – will return on January 11, before the rest go back on January 18.
Millions more are heading into Tier 4 measures today after a record 53,135 cases were diagnosed as hospital admissions go well past the April peak.
The Government has this afternoon confirmed a slew of new areas moving tiers – with most Brits now in 3 or 4.
Areas heading into Tier 3 and 4 at midnight
Joining areas already in Tier 4 from tomorrow are:
- Leicester City
- Leicestershire (Oadby and Wigston, Harborough, Hinckley and Bosworth, Blaby, Charnwood, North West Leicestershire, Melton)
- Lincolnshire (City of Lincoln, Boston, South Kesteven, West Lindsey, North Kesteven, South Holland, East Lindsey)
- Northamptonshire (Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire, Wellingborough)
- Derby and Derbyshire (Derby, Amber Valley, South Derbyshire, Bolsover, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash, Derbyshire Dales, High Peak)
- Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (Gedling, Ashfield, Mansfield, Rushcliffe, Bassetlaw, Newark and Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, Broxtowe)
- Birmingham and Black Country (Dudley, Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton)
- Warwickshire (Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Warwick, North Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon)
- Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent (East Staffordshire, Stafford, South Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Staffordshire Moorlands, Newcastle under Lyme, Tamworth, Stoke-on-Trent)
- Lancashire (Burnley, Pendle, Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley, Blackpool, Preston, Hyndburn, Chorley, Fylde, Lancaster, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Wyre)
- Cheshire and Warrington (Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington)
- Cumbria (Eden, Carlisle, South Lakeland, Barrow-in-Furness, Copeland, Allerdale)
- Greater Manchester (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan)
- Tees Valley (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees )
- North East (County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside, Sunderland)
- Gloucestershire (Gloucester, Forest of Dean, Cotswolds, Tewkesbury, Stroud, Cheltenham)
- Somerset Council (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset)
- Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
- Isle of Wight
- New Forest
The following areas will be in Tier 3 from tomorrow:
- Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
- Worcestershire (Bromsgrove, Malvern Hills, Redditch, Worcester, Wychavon, Wyre Forest)
- Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens)
- York & North Yorkshire (Scarborough, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Selby, Craven, Ryedale, Harrogate, City of York)
- Bath and North East Somerset
- Devon, Plymouth, Torbay (East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, West Devon, Plymouth, Torbay)
Regions with the highest rates currently outside of Tier 4 include Burnley, with 465.6 cases per 100,000 people, up from 446.5 the previous week.
Tier 2 Eden in Cumbria, which has a rate of 485.2, and Pendle in Lancashire, with a rate of 390.8, are in second and third place.
As of yesterday, Essex is the worst-hit area of England.
Brentwood has the highest rates in the country, with 1,258.1 cases per 100,000 people.
Nearby Epping Forest and Thurrock are in second and third place on the grim hitlist, with 1,256 and 1,181.6 cases respectively.
More than six million people in east and south-east England went into the highest level of restrictions at midnight on Boxing Day.
Some 24 million people – 43 per cent of the population – are now in Tier 4, but that number is expected to soon swell.
All the areas currently in Tier 4
A list of the areas in Tier 4 at present are:
- Surrey (excluding Waverley)
- The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
- All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.
- Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough
- Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
A full list of the areas that joined Tier 4 on Boxing Day are:
- Those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4
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