LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil a new three-tier system of measures alongside local regions across the country being handed greater decision-making powers as part of efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The new so-called “traffic light” system, to be laid out in the House of Commons on Monday, will see the most severe measures imposed for areas of England fall within the third tier and people being ordered not to have any social contact with anyone outside their household together with the expected closures of pubs, bars and restaurants where some of the highest numbers of cases are occurring.
Tier one is likely to see people expected to follow the “rule of six” on gatherings and maintain social distancing. Tier two could ban households from mixing in homes, gardens, pubs, bars or restaurants.
According to a letter seen by the BBC, the details of each tier, including the level of infection at which an area would qualify for it and the nature of the restrictions, are being debated this weekend.
Johnson’s Chief Strategic Adviser Edward Lister has written to the members of Parliament to highlight engagement with local authority leaders as part of the process. It comes amid mounting criticism of the government using a top-down approach by shutting down parts of northern England without a full engagement process with the local authorities.
“The government is operating under the misguided, arrogant and counterproductive view that ‘Whitehall knows best’, that decisions can be made behind closed doors, without any real consultation or even picking up the phone to those on the frontline,” Opposition Labour Party Leader Kier Starmer wrote in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) also criticised the government’s approach to reduce the spread of the virus and called for compulsory face coverings across all settings.
“COVID-19 is just as infectious in offices as in supermarkets. We need clear consistent policy now requiring masks in all settings where people mix outside their household and not 2 metres apart,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Council Chair.
A number of areas in the northern and Midlands of England are already subject to stricter restrictions, with the new tiered system being designed to try and better organise the differing set of rules for different parts of the UK.
Public Health England’s national infection service warned that the number of cases was rising all over the country, but more quickly in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber than the South.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he expected Liverpool – where there are currently 600 cases per 100,000 people – to be placed in tier three, under the highest set of restrictions.
Other cities, such as Leeds and Sheffield, could fall in the top tier. There is also a debate about whether the tiers should be tightly drawn around larger cities, or include the suburbs where infections are less.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan repeated his warnings that tougher restrictions in the UK capital are “inevitable”.
“You’ve got three buckets: level one the least restrictions, level three the most – similar to lockdown-type measures. What’s clear to me is that it’s inevitable there will be additional restrictions in London,” he told ‘LBC Radio’.
“And one of the things we are discussing as ‘one London’ – that’s me and the 32/33 boroughs – is what we think the right level should be and then work with government to make sure we have the right level there,” he said.