How long will your area stay in its lockdown tier – and what decides if it changes?

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read

Watch: Matt Hancock outlines England’s return to three-tier COVID system

The government has announced the vast majority of England will be under strict Tier 2 and 3 coronavirus restrictions after the national lockdown ends on 2 December.

It raises two important questions.

1. How often will each area’s tier be reviewed?

Downing Street has said the first review will take place on 16 December, which will mark two weeks of the new tier system being in place.

Number 10 said: “This allows for the possibility of areas that continue to make progress in slowing the spread of the disease to be moved down a tier in advance of Christmas.”

A pedestrian wearing a mask because of the novel coronavirus pandemic walks past shops with Christmas decorations on Oxford Street in London on November 26, 2020. - London will escape the tightest restrictions once England's national coronavirus lockdown ends next week, the government said Thursday, but major cities including Manchester and Birmingham face at least two more weeks of tough rules. England will return to a regional tiered system when the national regulations end on December 2, with those areas suffering the worst case rates entering the highest Tier 3. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
The government has said the three-tier coronavirus system will be reviewed after two weeks... and weekly after that. (AFP via Getty Images)

Health secretary Matt Hancock suggested in the House of Commons on Thursday that decisions will be taken weekly after that.

“We will review these in a fortnight [on 16 December] and then regularly, by which [you] can take weekly.”

Hancock said “we have a weekly cycle of meetings”, with England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty chairing meetings on Tuesdays and Hancock himself chairing meetings on Wednesdays in readiness “for an announcement on Thursday for any change to the tiers”.

In that case, we can expect the weekly announcements to be made on 24 December, 31 December, 7 January and so on.

As Boris Johnson confirmed the return to the three-tier system on Monday, the prime minister suggested the tier system will last until March as he said: “Our winter plan is designed to carry us safely to spring.

2. What will be the factors behind tier decisions?

The government said “decisions on tiers are made by ministers based on public health recommendations informed by the following factors”:

  • case detection rate – in all age groups and in particular among the over 60s

  • how quickly case rates are rising or falling

  • COVID positivity in the general population

  • pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity based on admissions, general/acute/intensive care unit bed occupancy, and staff absences

  • local context and exceptional circumstances – such as a local but contained outbreak

Read more:

The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained

The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained

What tier are you in? Full list of lockdown areas

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work