'Reckless and dangerous' to wait until Boxing Day to bring more areas into Tier 4, warns expert

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read
Pedestrians wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walk along Oxford Street in central London on December 22, 2020. - UK government borrowing continued to soar in November on emergency action to support the virus-hit economy which nevertheless rebounded stronger than expected in the third quarter, official data showed Tuesday. Government borrowing last month hit £31.6 billion ($41.8 billion, 34.2 billion euros), a record for November -- taking public sector net debt to £2.1 trillion, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
More areas of the UK could be put under Tier 4 restrictions. (Getty)

It is “reckless and dangerous” to wait until Boxing Day to bring more areas into Tier 4, an expert has warned.

Ministers will meet on Wednesday to decide if more parts of England should be put under the toughest lockdown restrictions amid fears over the spread of a new mutant strain of coronavirus.

Birmingham and parts of Sussex are some of the areas that could join London and most parts of the South East in the highest tier from 26 December.

But Dr Zubaida Haque, a member of the Independent Sage group of scientists, is worried that waiting until Boxing Day will be too late for some people.

Watch: Robert Jenrick: No ‘immediate plan’ to widen COVID restrictions

Dr Haque tweeted: “With covid cases doubling in the #tier2 areas around #tier4, and NHS hospitals in tier 4 areas approaching capacity, it feels reckless & dangerous to wait until Boxing Day to implement a #tier4lockdown in England/UK.

“Why are the government putting politics before people's lives?”

The new variant, which is said to be 70% more infectious than previous strains, has already spread around the UK, with cases also identified in Wales and Scotland.

Health chiefs in Cumbria have said the new strain is in the county and could be behind sharp increases in cases, while Lancashire’s director of public health said there was a “high likelihood” the new variant was there as well.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the prime minister to say his party would back any government moves to tighten restrictions if that is what scientists recommended.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick confirmed the government would make a decision on whether the current restrictions were appropriate.

Professor Neil Ferguson told the Commons Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday that stricter rules over Christmas could have a positive impact on curbing the spread of infections.

He said: "The critical question is what happens in January and the extent we want to make public health measures more uniform across the country if the new variant is everywhere."

On Monday, the UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said rules would "need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced".

People walk past temporarily-closed stores on Oxford Street in London, England, on December 21, 2020. London spent its second day of what could be months under newly-introduced 'Tier 4' coronavirus restrictions today. Under Tier 4 rules non-essential shops and many other businesses including gyms and hairdressers must close, with people instructed to stay at home other than for exempted circumstances including travel to work or education. Indoor mixing between those in different households is also banned under the new tier, upending Christmas plans for a huge swathe of the population. Concern over a more infectious strain of the coronavirus in the UK has meanwhile seen dozens of countries ban arrivals from Britain, with food supplies also disrupted after France closed the cross-Channel freight route from Dover. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Boxing Day sales may be hit if more parts of England come under Tier 4. (Getty)

Anyone in a Tier 4 area must not mix with people outside their household over Christmas.

Non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys have also been forced to close.

People will also be restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Read more

The Tier 4 COVID lockdown rules explained
The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained
The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained

Exemptions to the “stay at home” message that applied in the November lockdown will also apply in the new Tier 4 – including support bubbles, childcare bubbles and children whose parents are separated.

People will be allowed to travel for education, for childcare and to go to work if they cannot work from home, and they will be permitted unlimited outdoor exercise.

Watch: What is long COVID?