What do the Covid-19 tiers mean and can I see my family at Christmas?

What do Tiers mean for me, when will restrictions change… and what about Christmas? Vital Q&A on what post-lockdown life will look like from Dec 2

Almost all parts of England will face tough coronavirus curbs with a ban on households mixing indoors and restrictions on hospitality from next Wednesday.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive tier three, but London and much of the South will be in tier two.

Some 23.3 million people will face the most stringent restrictions, while 32 million people will be in the second tier when the national lockdown finishes.

In tier two, the restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors and pubs, and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

Tier three measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks, with restaurants limited to takeaway or delivery.

Here, MailOnline answers some of the key questions about the new system, which has slightly different rules to the tiers imposed before the second lockdown:  

How do I find out what tier I’m in?

The Government had launched a postcode checker shortly after 11am today, but later removed the feature after it kept failing to work when people tried to use it.

Instead, you can scroll down for our list of what areas are in tier two and three. The only areas in tier one are Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly.

When will the restrictions take effect?

The national lockdown for England ends next Wednesday, December 2 at 00.01am, and the new tier restrictions will come into effect at that point. 


What does ‘tier two’ mean?

This means the area is on a ‘high alert’ for coronavirus, with the Government saying it shows it has a ‘higher or rapidly rising level of infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place’.

Can I see my friends or family indoors?

No, unless they are in your household. You cannot socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place

Can I see my friends and family outdoors, including in gardens? 

Yes, with restrictions. You cannot socialise in a group of more than six people outside, including in a garden or a public space. This is called the ‘rule of six’.

Can I go the pub?

Yes, with restrictions. You can only inside a pub with your own household, and they are only allowed to serve alcohol with ‘substantial meals’.

You can go outside a pub with members of other households within the ‘rule of six’, but the same rules apply regarding alcohol.

Can I go to a restaurant?

Yes, with the same restrictions as above regarding where you can sit with members of other households. 

Can I go up to the bar at a pub or restaurant?

No. Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol. 

Are nightclubs reopening?

No, nightclubs still remain closed by law. 

Is the curfew on pubs and restaurants still in place?

Yes, but it has been put back an hour. Now, hospitality venues serving alcohol must close between 11pm and 5am, and stop taking orders after 10pm.

Are there exemptions to the curfew? 

Yes, hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are all exempt from the curfew.

Can you still get a takeaway after 10pm?

Yes. Hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through.

Are other businesses also under the curfew?

Yes, the 11pm closure applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and bingo halls. 

Are there exemptions for cinemas and theatres with late shows?

Yes. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm.

Are there new capacity rules on audiences at events?

Yes. Public attendance at outdoor and indoor events is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50 per cent capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors

The City of London is surrounded by haze this morning. The capital will be in tier two next week

Can I go to watch live sport?

Yes. Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50 per cent capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors.

Can I go to church?

Yes. Places of worship will be open but you cannot socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies.

Are weddings back on?

Yes. Weddings can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Are funerals still permitted?

Yes. Now 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stonesettings.

Can organised sport continue?

Yes. Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue.

What about organised indoor sport?

Yes, with restrictions. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). 

There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.

Will gyms be open?


Are there restrictions on travel?

Yes. The Government says you can travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.

Do the rules change if you travel to a tier one area?

No. If you live in a tier two area, you must continue to follow tier two rules when you travel to a tier one area. 

What about if you go to a tier three area?

The Government advises people to avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier three areas ‘other than where necessary’, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.

It adds that people can travel through a tier three area as a part of a longer journey.

If moving between tiers, which rules do you follow?

You must follow the rules of the tier you are in, or the tier you are visiting – whichever is higher. 

Can you go abroad?

Yes, with exemptions. For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.

What areas are in tier two?

Here is a full list of the areas in tier two, according to the Government website. 

East of England

  • Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
  • Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
  • Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
  • Hertfordshire
  • Norfolk
  • Suffolk


  • all 32 boroughs plus the City of London

South East

  • Bracknell Forest
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Buckinghamshire
  • East Sussex
  • Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
  • Oxfordshire
  • Reading
  • Surrey
  • West Berkshire
  • West Sussex
  • Windsor and Maidenhead
  • Wokingham

    North West 

    • Cumbria 
    • Liverpool City Region 
    • Warrington and Cheshire

    South West

    • Bath and North East Somerset
    • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
    • Devon
    • Dorset
    • Gloucestershire
    • South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
    • Wiltshire and Swindon
    • West Midlands
    • Herefordshire
    • Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
    • Worcestershire
    • Yorkshire
    • North Yorkshire
    • York

    East Midlands 

    • Northamptonshire 
    • Rutland


      What does ‘tier three’ mean? 

      This is a ‘very high’ alert level – the highest of the three-tier system – for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place. 

      Can I see my friends or family indoors? 

      No, unless they are in the same household. The rules for this are the same in tier two.

      Can I see my friends and family outdoors?

      Yes, but not in private gardens. You can only socialise in groups of up to six people in other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility.

      People out in Leeds today, before the city enters tier three next Wednesday after lockdown

      Can I go the pub or restaurant?

      No. These all have to shut under law, except for takeaway. 

      Can I get a takeaway?

      Yes. Hospitality settings, such as pubs, cafes and restaurants are allowed to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.

      Can I stay in a hotel?

      No. Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for those who use these venues as their main residence, and those requiring the venues where it is ‘reasonably necessary for work or education and training’.

      What venues have to stay shut?

      The majority of entertainment and tourist venues must close, including:

      • indoor play centres and areas, including trampolining parks and soft play
      • casinos
      • bingo halls
      • bowling alleys
      • skating rinks
      • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
      • laser quests and escape rooms
      • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
      • snooker halls

      Can indoor attractions at outdoor venues stay open?

      No. Indoor attractions at mostly outdoor entertainment venues must also close, although indoor shops, through-ways and public toilets at such attractions can remain open. 

      This includes indoor attractions within: 

      • zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves
      • aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions
      • model villages
      • museums, galleries and sculpture parks
      • botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses
      • theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs
      • visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes
      • landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms

      Can leisure and sports facilities stay open?

      Yes, with restrictions. Group exercise classes including fitness and dance should not go ahead. Saunas and steam rooms should also close.

      Can I attend a live sports event?

      No. There should be no public attendance at spectator sport or indoor performances and large business events should not be taking place. However, elite sport events may continue to take place without spectators.

      People walk through Birmingham today, before the region goes into tier three rules next week

      Can large outdoor events take place?

      No. The likes of performances and shows should not take place, with the exception of drive-in events.

      Can I still go to church?

      Yes. Places of worship remain open, but you must not attend with or socialise with anyone outside of your household or support bubble while you are there, unless a legal exemption applies

      Can a wedding take place? 

      Yes. weddings can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 15 people can attend the ceremonies, and receptions are not allowed.

      Can I go to a funeral?

      Yes. Thirty people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events

      Can organised outdoor sport take place?

      Yes. Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue, however ‘higher-risk contact activity should not take place’.

      Can indoor sport take place?

      No. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes cannot take place indoors. 

      There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s.

      Can I still travel to places? 

      Yes. You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.

      Can I go on holiday to other parts of Britain?

      No. You should ‘avoid travelling to other parts of the UK’, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. However, you can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.

      Can I go abroad?

      Yes, with restrictions. For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list. 

      What areas are in tier three?

      Here is a full list of the areas in tier three, according to the Government website. 

      East Midlands

      • Derby and Derbyshire
      • Leicester and Leicestershire
      • Lincolnshire
      • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

      North East

      • North East Combined Authority:
      • County Durham
      • Gateshead
      • Newcastle upon Tyne
      • North Tyneside
      • Northumberland
      • South Tyneside
      • Sunderland
      • Tees Valley Combined Authority:
      • Darlington
      • Hartlepool
      • Middlesbrough
      • Redcar and Cleveland
      • Stockton-on-Tees

      North West

      • Blackburn with Darwen
      • Blackpool
      • Greater Manchester
      • Lancashire

      South East

      • Kent and Medway
      • Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)

      South West

      • Bristol
      • North Somerset
      • South Gloucestershire

      West Midlands

      • Birmingham and Black Country
      • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
      • Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

      Yorkshire and The Humber

      • The Humber
      • South Yorkshire
      • West Yorkshire


      Are there exemptions from gatherings limits in all tiers?

      Yes, the following exemptions to the ‘rule of six’ apply below: 

      • as part of a single household, or a support bubble
      • for work or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes
      • for childcare, education or training – meaning education and training provided as part of a formal curriculum
      • for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups
      • for formal support groups, and parent and child groups – up to 15 people aged 5 and older
      • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
      • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
      • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
      • for birth partners
      • to attend a funeral – with no more than 30 people present – or a commemorative event such as a wake for someone who has died – with no more than 15 people present
      • to see someone who is terminally ill or at the end of life
      • to attend a wedding or civil partnership – with no more than 15 people present
      • to provide emergency assistance
      • to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
      • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
      • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable or to provide respite for a carer
      • to facilitate moving home


      Plans revealed earlier this week to allow people to form a temporary bubble over the festive season were welcome news to families across the country.

      But how much do we know about what is being proposed? Here, are some key questions based on information released by the Cabinet Office for England:

      What is a Christmas bubble and when can I join one?

      People will be allowed to form an exclusive Christmas bubble made up of people from no more than three households between December 23 and 27.

      This rule applies across the whole of the UK.

      Christmas bubbles can only meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces.

      Can I be in more than one Christmas bubble?

      No. Christmas bubbles will be fixed for the period they are permitted.

      You are also not allowed to change your Christmas bubble once it is formed.

      Is there a limit to how many people can be in a Christmas bubble?

      The Cabinet Office guidance only stipulates that the bubble should not include people from more than three households.

      However, it highlights that the more people someone sees, the more likely they are to catch or spread Covid-19, and asks the public to be mindful of risks before agreeing to form a bubble.

      The Scottish Government said people should keep the numbers within a bubble as low as possible and minimise the length of contact between different households in the bubble.

      Will we have to social distance within Christmas bubbles?

      Social distancing will not be necessary in bubbles, but people will be advised to exercise restraint and judgment if they plan to mix with vulnerable friends or family.

      It means friends and family will have the chance to hug for the first time in months.

      What happens if I’m self-isolating?

      If you have Covid symptoms or are required to self-isolate then you must not join a Christmas bubble.

      If someone in a Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops symptoms between December 23 and 27, or up to 48 hours after the bubble last met, then all bubble members must self-isolate.

      Can I be in a different Christmas bubble from people I normally live with?

      Cabinet Office guidance says you can choose to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally.

      To prevent virus transmission within your normal household and between bubbles, people should try to stay with another member of their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27 where possible.

      Extra precautions such as cleaning surfaces and door handles and letting in fresh air after someone has visited your household are also advised.

      However, the Scottish Government has said that ‘different people in a household should not pick their own bubble’. 

      Can I still meet people outside of my Christmas bubble?

      You will be able to meet people not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.

      The tier system of restrictions applies to England, with rules in other parts of the UK varying.

      Can I stay overnight with my Christmas bubble?

      Yes. If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes and stay overnight, including in private rented accommodation.

      Can I travel through different areas and across borders to join a Christmas bubble?

      Yes. You are allowed to travel between England’s tiers and the four nations of the UK to meet your Christmas bubble.

      When am I allowed to travel to and from my Christmas bubble?

      You should only travel to meet your bubble and return home between December 23 and 27.

      For those heading to or from Northern Ireland, they may travel on December 22 and 28 December, but should only meet their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27.

      Travel outside these periods is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example if your are required to self-isolate.

      People are advised to avoid unnecessary stops on their journey and not to share a car with people not in their household.

      If crossing borders, travellers should read the local coronavirus guidance as different rules may apply.

      Does my support bubble count as one household still?

      According to the Cabinet Office, existing support bubbles will count as one household contributing to the three household Christmas bubble limit.

      A support bubble in England is defined as a support network between a single adult household, or a one adult household with one or more people aged under 18 on June 12, and one other household of any size.

      Rules on household bubbles are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with full Christmas guidance still pending from those nations.

      Can childcare bubbles continue?

      In England, a childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to children aged 13 or under.

      Between December 23 and 27 you can continue to use a childcare bubble but ‘only if reasonably necessary’ and ‘where there are no reasonable alternatives’, Cabinet Office guidance states.

      If meeting socially during this period, the two households should form a Christmas bubble, with one further household permitted to join the grouping.

      Again, guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may differ.

      What happens to children whose parents are separated?

      Children who are aged under 18 can be part of both their parents’ Christmas bubbles if the adults do not live together and separate groupings are formed.

      Nobody else is allowed to be in two bubbles.

      Can care home residents join Christmas bubbles?

      In England, visits outside of care homes should only be considered for residents ‘of working age’.

      A care home resident that is allowed to leave, subject to a home’s agreement and individual risk assessments, may form a bubble with one other household only and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.

      If a care home resident does join a household for Christmas they should maintain social distance and take steps to minimise risks.

      Can students returning from university join Christmas bubbles?

      Students heading home for the holidays will be considered part of the household they return to.

      Can I form a Christmas bubble if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?

      Yes, but people are warned this involves greater risks.

      If someone decides to join a bubble they should take extra precautions, while others within the group should be extra vigilant in the days before getting together.

      Can my bubble have Christmas dinner together at the pub?

      No. Under the rules Christmas bubbles cannot meet up at indoor settings such as pubs, hotels, retail businesses, theatres or restaurants.

      In England, rules on who you can and cannot meet will still depend on which tier of restrictions a venue is in.

      Should I follow the rules of the tier I travel to or the tier I’ve come from when forming my Christmas bubble?

      In England, if travelling to join your bubble you should follow the tier rules of your destination.

      In Scotland, you must stay with your bubble where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in.

      For example, people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area.

      Can I stay in a hotel during Christmas?

      In England, you can stay in a hotel during the Christmas period, including in a tier three area, but only on your own or with members of your household.

      How will the Christmas rules be enforced?

      No specific details have been released over how authorities might enforce the newly announced rules during the festive period.

      Will we face tougher restrictions in January to make up for this?

      We do not yet know. It has been speculated that a further circuit-breaker might be needed in January or February if transmission rates rise during Christmas.

      The Prime Minister has urged families to still be ‘jolly careful’, warning against ‘a big blowout Christmas’ that could risk another lockdown in January.

      What tier are YOU in and why? Secrecy row as Department of Health refuses to publish the numbers behind decisions to place all but THREE regions of England in toughest two brackets (and why are there question marks in crucial document?)

      Number 10 today published a breakdown of England’s lockdown tiers in a desperate attempt to justify the brutal curbs to the public as Boris Johnson announced all but three places of the country will be plunged into the toughest brackets.  

      The document, released as it emerged almost 99 per cent of the population will be living in some form of lockdown when the national intervention finally ends on December 2, vaguely details why different restrictions were allocated to each area but doesn’t reveal the exact thresholds behind making the decisions.  

      It seems to be a direct response to fierce criticism levelled at the Government about transparency by scientists and its own MPs, who accused ministers of using ‘finger in the air’ criteria to make the crucial decisions that will put a wrecking ball through already-crippled pubs, restaurants and clubs in swathes of the nation.

      In Tier Three Manchester, for example, the Department of Health breakdown said ‘while there has been continued improvement’, weekly infections remain too high, ‘especially in those over 60, at around 260 per 100,000 people.’ Tagged on the end of the explanation is a vague message about the pressure on the local NHS ‘remaining a concern’, especially in ‘Manchester University hospital and Pennine Acute Trust’. 

      Improvements have been seen in Tier Three Leicester, according to the breakdown, but Covid-19 infection rates remain ‘very high’ at 355 per 100,000, including in over 60s at 250. The DoH document adds: ‘The pressure on the local NHS remains very high.’ 

      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.

      Amid shambolic scenes this morning, the government had set an online postcode checker live before the official 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. And the original justification document published on the Government’s website contained a series of question marks against some of the areas listed — but it is not clear why.   

      The regional tier breakdown published on Parliament’s website contained a series of question marks alongside some of the areas listed. It was not immediately clear why the question marks were on the document or if was an early draft of the document mistakenly released

      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

      Oxford University’ Carl Heneghan, professor in evidence-based medicine and epidemiologist, told MailOnline without ‘clear, objective criteria’, people are often left confused about why they are being punished and what behaviour they need to adjust to move out of the tougher lockdown brackets. 

      How will government decide what Tiers areas are put into? 

      Boris Johnson has promised to base Tier allocation on ‘common sense’, and the government’s ‘Winter Plan’ set out a series of metrics that will be used. They are:

      • Case detection rates in all age groups;
      • Case detection rates in the over 60s;
      • The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
      • Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken); and
      • Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

      However, there are no specific numerical trigger points, and the document added that there will be ‘some flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’. 

      ‘For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients,’ the document said. 

      ‘Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities.’ 

      Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth demanded that the government publishes a ‘scorecard’ showing exactly how each area measured against its criteria for deciding Tiers amid complaints they are too vague, and the geographical areas too broad.

      The Joint Biosecurity Centre will review the Covid situation in areas every two weeks and sign off on proposals to upgrade or downgrade places, though the final decision remains with the PM. However, there are no specific trigger thresholds for coming in or out of Tiers.

      But Professor Heneghan — who yesterday told MailOnline the restrictions would be outdated by the time they come into force next week — said officials ‘need to be much more flexible and reactive’ so regions can be freed from the economically-damaging curbs at the drop of a hat, if the outbreak starts trending in the right direction. 

      Adding to confusion, the regional tier breakdown published on Parliament’s website contained a series of question marks alongside some of the areas listed. It was not immediately clear why the question marks were on the document or if was an early draft of the document mistakenly released.

      It adds to a catalogue of blunders by UK health officials who in September lost nearly 16,000 Covid test results due to a Microsoft’s Excel glitch and were four months late in launching their ‘world beating’ Test and Trace app. 

      For Liverpool – formerly the country’s Covid hotspot –  ‘cases have fallen by 69 per cent over six weeks’. 

      But the region was placed in Tier Two because ‘case rates in over 60s are very high (over 200 per 100,000) in six lower tier local authorities’, according to the document.

      Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, two of three places to be put in Tier One, there are low case rates and test positivity and the infections in all ages are stable or declining, officials said.

      ‘There have been no cases in the Isles of Scilly in the last seven days meaning there is strong evidence to make an allocation to Tier One,’ it added.

      In Tier One Isle of Wight, the DoH claimed: ‘The case rate is low and decreasing at 71 per 100,000 and lower in over 60s at 44 per 100,000. COVID-19 pressure on the NHS is low.’

      Experts have said the Government should be prepared to start moving places up and down tiers next week when the lockdown ends because the country ‘will be in very different position than it is now’.

      Professor Heneghan warned the tiers may already be outdated and ‘unjustified’ when the national shutdown lapses next week because Covid infections are plummeting across the country.

      He said ‘if the trend continues it will be hard to justify tougher tiered restrictions’ when the lockdown ends on Wednesday. 

      ‘The expert urged ministers to lay out exactly what needs to change for high-risk areas to be downgraded. 

      For example, residents in Manchester should be told if they get their case rates in the over-60s then the region should be moved to Tier Two.

      At present, the Government is not doing that and it will wait at least two weeks before reassessing the different tiers. 


      The Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up in May at the cost of £9billion – has been slammed as ‘far too opaque’.

      Little is known about the secretive body, which is run out of the Cabinet Office, where Dominic Cummings’ ally and former boss Michael Gove is the responsible minister.

      Its staff consists of senior Department of Health bosses, epidemiologists and data analysts. But its structure, and details on whether experts are paid by the government, have not been announced.


      The JBC was originally tasked with monitoring Covid-19 and assisting the nation’s chief medical officers in setting the threat level.     

      But it was given boosted responsibilities in July, when Matt Hancock downgraded Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE following criticisms about its response to the first wave.

      Data from all of the Government’s health and science bodies are though to be fed into the JBC, which then recommends action to Number 10. 

      But to be implemented, measures need to be signed off by the prime minister. These include lockdown restrictions and the new revamped tiered system. 

      The JBC will assess the Covid situation across England every two weeks and decide if places need to be upgraded or downgraded. 

      However, there are no specific trigger thresholds for coming in or out of Tiers. And there will be ‘flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’.


      The JBC is headed by Dr Clare Gardiner, a qualified epidemiologist, medical researcher, and cybersecurity director at GCHQ.

      She reports to Baroness Dido Harding, the chief of NHS Test and Trace and the entire JBC organisation falls under the control of the Department of Health, which answers to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.  

      Tory MPs today accused the Government of ‘authoritarianism’ when it emerged the brutal lockdowns will affect nearly 99 per cent of England.

      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.

      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 Three 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.

      London escapes Tier 3 and is placed in second bracket – but cases have yet to drop in Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham 

      Coronavirus infections in are trending upwards in at least four London boroughs despite the capital avoiding a Tier 3 lockdown, figures show.

      The city was placed under laxer Tier 2 restrictions today in a huge boost for the hospitality and entertainment sectors in London.

      Tier 2 means restaurants, gyms, cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys, hotels and leisure centres will be able to open.

      The decision was made because the vast majority of London’s 32 boroughs are seeing average infections trend downwards.

      But Government data shows four east London boroughs, Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham and Waltham Forest, are bucking the trend.

      Newham was recording 113.4 infections every day on average on November 18, the most recent snapshot.

      That’s 6 per cent more than the 101.7 the week beforehand, on November 11, and 20 per cent more than the 94.9 a fortnight prior. 

      In Redbridge, also in east London, daily cases were averaging 131.8 on the same date, up from 121.3 the week before and 101.4 on November 4.

      The borough of Barking and Dagenham is also recording an upwards trend in cases, though the rate of increase how slowed.

      On November 18 cases were 80.3, on average, compared to 75 on November 11 and 70 the week before that. 

      Waltham Forest was seeing cases decrease in mid-November but they have started to trend in the opposite direction.

      After an October surge in cases, the borough had an average 92 daily infections by November 10. This plunged to 76.9 by November 16, but rebounded up to 84.6 by November 18. 

      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.  

      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.’

      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.

      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’s incredibly disappointing news that Buckinghamshire having entered the national lockdown in Tier 1 will emerge from the national lockdown into the more punitive restrictions of Tier 2.

      ‘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.’

      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.’

      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.’ 

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