Covid: New restrictions for England likely next week

3 min


Covid: New restrictions for England likely next weekImage copyright Getty Images

Coronavirus restrictions are to be further tightened in parts of England early next week, with the closure of bars and restaurants a possibility, the BBC has been told.

There could also be a ban on overnight stays away from home.

The government is also likely to introduce a three tier system for local lockdowns, with different parts of the country placed in different categories.

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Ministers are still discussing how restrictive the top tier should be.

It comes as significant new measures are introduced in Scotland.

From Friday, all pubs and restaurants across central Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, are to close, while in the rest of Scotland hospitality venues must shut at 18:00 BST and alcohol can only be served outdoors.

Industry leaders are warning the measures could be the final straw for many businesses.

On Wednesday the number of UK cases rose by 14,162, with a further 70 deaths announced.

The planned tightening of restrictions in parts of England follows rising infection rates across much of the country, and as medical leaders warned the NHS was at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle Upon Tyne have the highest infection rates in the country.

A government source told the BBC the situation in the north-west and north-east of England was “very troubling”, with growing numbers of hospital admissions and more elderly people in intensive care.

These areas will be placed into the top tier of restrictions, possibly as early as Monday, in a new system called the Local Covid Alert Level.

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But there remains a debate within cabinet over how far the restrictions in the top tier should go, with some in No 10 arguing for measures like those in Scotland.

Schools would remain open under all circumstances.

It’s a complicated equation. The Department of Health is worried about the spread of the disease, as well as other patients losing out on other treatments because of the focus on Covid.

No 11 is fearful about the impact on the economy, which has already had a profound shock.

And it’s No 10’s job to worry about all of it, then reach a conclusion.

But Boris Johnson also knows that his own MPs and the opposition parties are more and more sceptical as each day passes about what the government proposes.

It’s clear that shutting pubs and restaurants is a possibility – the “circuit breaker” that we have talked about on here lots of times.

But there are many questions still to be settled.

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Read more from Laura here.

Under the new system, different parts of the country would be placed in different categories, depending on the prevalence of the virus.

All areas would be subject to the current England-wide restrictions, but there would be much more robust measures for the top tier – the one with the highest infection rates.

There are already tighter restrictions in parts of the north-east and north-west of England, Birmingham and Leicester, where the rate of infection has been rising.

But there are currently no extra restrictions for hospitality venues in these areas beyond those in force nationally, such as the 22:00 pub curfew.

The Treasury is looking at providing financial support to the industry in the worst-hit areas, and a memo seen by the BBC shows plans for additional money for local authorities. They would get £1 per head of population if placed into tier two, and £2 per head for tier three.

The planned changes come as medical leaders warn that rising infection levels across the country could leave the NHS “unable to cope”.

The Academy of Medical Colleges, which represents the UK and Ireland’s 24 medical royal colleges, called on people to abide “strictly” to coronavirus measures to prevent NHS services from becoming overwhelmed.

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Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the academy, said: “Given the recent dramatic spike in both the number of cases and hospital admissions it is clear that we could soon be back to where we were in April if we are not all extremely careful.

“This is a matter of national importance and we will only get through this if we all pull together.”

Millions of people across the UK are already affected by extra local restrictions.

As well as the changes in Scotland, in several parts of north-east England it is illegal to mix with another household in any indoor setting. People are also advised against all but essential travel.

In some areas in Wales, nobody is able to enter or leave without a “reasonable excuse”.

In other developments:


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