Most of England will remain under Tier 1 or “medium-risk” restrictions which limit most indoor gatherings to six people and require all bars and restaurants to close at 10pm.
Large parts of the midlands and the north of England, including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle and Nottingham, will be under Tier 2 or “high-risk” restrictions. This means that people are not allowed to meet anyone outside their household in an indoor social setting and most outdoor gatherings are limited to six people.
Tier 3 or “very high-risk” restrictions which apply to the Liverpool city region will see pubs and bars close unless they operate as restaurants serving alcohol only with a substantial meal, and social mixing will be banned indoors and outdoors.
Shops, schools and colleges will remain open even under the most severe restrictions.
“I believe not to act would be unforgivable, so I hope that rapid progress can be made in the coming days,” Mr Johnson told the House of Commons. “This is not how we want to live our lives, but this is the narrow path we have to tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the massive human and, indeed, economic cost of an uncontained epidemic.”
At a press conference in Downing Street later the British prime minister said data about the rise in infections, hospitalisations and deaths were “flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet”.
There are now more coronavirus patients in hospital than there were at the start of the lockdown in March, and the number of positive cases has quadrupled in the last three weeks.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned that Tier 3 restrictions might have to be tightened further to be truly effective, and he acknowledged the difficult trade-off between protecting public health in the short-term and limiting damage to the economy.
“The idea we can do this without causing harm is an illusion. Every country in the world is struggling with this, and I’m confident we’ll get through it, but it’s a balancing act between two harms.”.
Politicians representing areas earmarked for Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions expressed disappointment, and some complained that they were unfairly categorised as high risk.
West Midlands mayor Andy Street called on the government to reconsider its decision to put his region, which includes Birmingham, under the same restrictions as Manchester, where the infection rate is more than four times higher.
The mayors of Liverpool city region and Liverpool city, Steve Rotheram and Joe Anderson, joined other local leaders in calling for more financial support for businesses and workers affected by the Tier 3 lockdown.
“The national furlough scheme is inadequate and risks pushing tens of thousands of low-paid workers below the national minimum wage, while the direct support to businesses is also less than that offered during the national lockdown,” they said in a joint statement.