how the UK is coping with a second wave


how the UK is coping with a second wave

The Health Secretary has announced further restrictions across England as cases continue to rise. 

On the 26th December, Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, Essex, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire (Portsmouth and Southampton) entered Tier 4 restrictions. 

Furthermore, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, North Hampshire, Cheshire and Warrington were upgraded to Tier 3 from this December 26.

Cornwall and Herefordshire were placed into Tier 2. 

Currently, in the UK, 2,256,005 people have tested positive for the virus so far, and there have been 70,405 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test.

What happened over Christmas? 

Concerns over a mutant strain of coronavirus driving the infection rate had prompted the government to scrap the five-day relaxation period over Christmas. In an emergency press conference on December 19, Boris Johnson announced the “cancellation” of Christmas and the launch of Tier 4, the highest level of restrictions, which is currently in place across London and the South East. 

“Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” the Prime Minister has said.

The Prime Minister also announced “with a heavy heart” that the three household rule will now only apply to Dec 25, rather than the whole period of Dec 23 to 27.

Meanwhile, those in Tier 4 areas cannot mix with any other households over Christmas, but support bubbles can continue for those at particular risk of isolation or loneliness.

The rules will next be reviewed on Dec 30, and Mr Johnson has refused to rule out the possibility of a third lockdown for England after Christmas.

What are the latest updates?

At 00.01 am this Boxing Day, Matt Hancock placed most areas of England into Tiers 3 and 4. The next tier review is due on December 30.

Under Tier 4 restrictions, all non-essential retail is closed and household mixing is prohibited.

The latest Tier 4 restrictions affect around 18 million people living in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire,  Berkshire, Essex, London,  Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, Hastings and Rother, Portsmouth, Gosport, and Havant.

The measures come after the latest data revealed Covid-19 case rates were rising in 90 per cent of all local areas in England, in the seven days up to Dec 17.

The relaxation over Christmas had been widely criticised by experts. The Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor had warned of a spike in Covid cases after an “inevitable period of mixing” over Christmas, and anticipated tightened restrictions in the leadup to Christmas Day. 

Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street briefing on December 21: “The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it’s more transmissible, we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place.

“I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced.”

There is no evidence that the new strain has a higher mortality rate or that the new vaccine will be ineffective against it.

Mr Hancock also announced that two cases of another variant of coronavirus have been identified in the UK. The new variant was traced to South Africa, and anybody who has travelled from South Africa in the last two weeks (or been in contact with someone who has) must quarantine immediately.

Will the tiers remain the same?

Before the House of Commons voted to introduce the new tier system on Dec 1, Boris Johnson told MPs that the Tiers would be decided on a more “granular” basis after the review on Dec 16.

Following the review, Matt Hancock announced that swathes of East and South-East England would enter Tier 3 from Dec 19, including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Essex (except for Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring), Hertfordshire, Surrey (except for Waverley), Hastings and Rother, Portsmouth, Gosport, and Havant.

On Saturday, December 19, Boris Johnson announced all areas which had been moved to Tier 3 would be lifted into a new level of restrictions – Tier 4, in which Christmas bubbles were no longer allowed.

On the passing of these restrictions, Mr Johnson argued: “As we go forward, and I mean this very sincerely, the Government will look at how we can reflect as closely as possible the reality of what is happening on the ground, looking at the incidence of the disease, the human geography and spread of the virus.” 

The next official review of the tier system will be on Dec 30. 

The Telegraph’s map below plots where all official cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK. It is sourced from Public Health England announcements and updated regularly based on trustworthy data.

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