3-tier lockdown system: Boris Johnson faces attacks from all sides after splitting UK into coronavirus risk levels
BORIS Johnson carved up Britain into three Covid risk categories last night — with 17million people in the two highest tiers.
But Labour mayors refused to accept the toughest restrictions in a row over money while fellow Tories blasted the new rules as “insane”.
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Meanwhile, his chief medic, Professor Chris Whitty, warned the plans might not go far enough.
Unveiling his new system, Mr Johnson urged we “must act now” in a bid to avoid another national lockdown.
He said dire virus numbers are “flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet”.
Under the new plans, the highest-risk areas will get “baseline restrictions” with leaders urged to choose additional measures depending on local circumstances.
From tomorrow, 1.5million on Merseyside will be on the very high risk Tier Three — where pubs, gyms and bookies will shut.
Another 15.5million in the North West, North East and parts of the Midlands will be on Tier Two — high risk — with a ban on households mixing.
These figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet.
However the PM had wanted to place Manchester, other parts of the North West, the North East plus Yorkshire into Tier Three.
But he was last night bogged down in a haggling over bailouts led by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
Promising no one “will be left to fend for themselves”, the PM unveiled a billion-pound bailout package for affected councils.
Last night he urged local leaders to get on board or have measures foisted on them from Westminster in the coming days.
He said: “We’re still working with other local leaders to determine how best to tackle the resurgence of the virus in their areas but tackle it we will.”
As another 50 Covid deaths were announced yesterday, Mr Johnson warned MPs any further delay would be “unforgivable”.
He added: “If we can’t get agreement, then clearly it is the duty of a national government to take the necessary action to protect the public and public health, and we will.”
Speaking from No 10 later last night, the PM insisted he was taking a “balanced approach” between avoiding a second nationwide lockdown and letting the virus “rip”.
HIGH ALERT: Local alert levels
BORIS Johnson today announced his new plan to control the spread of coronavirus with a three-tier system.
All areas in England, excluding those listed below, will be on the medium level.
Very High Level
Liverpool City Region
- St Helens
- Cheshire West and Chester
- Cheshire East
- High Peak, the wards of:
- St John's
- Old Glossop
- Howard Town
- Hadfield South
- Hadfield North
- Blackburn with Darwen
- South Tyneside
- North Tyneside
- Redcar and Cleveland
- Oadby and Wigston
- Nottingham City
He said he could not support lifting all restrictions because “all the maths is brutal, it would lead to too many fatalities”.
Another national lockdown would “do a great deal of extra harm to our economy”, he warned.
The PM added: “We don’t want to go down that extreme route right now. We want to give these measures time to work.”
But he appeared to clash with chief medical officer Professor Whitty over whether the Tier Three restrictions alone would be enough.
The medic warned each Tier Three area must also have extra measures to match its specific challenges.
He said: “I am not confident and nor is anybody confident that the Tier Three proposals for the highest rates, if we did the absolute base case and nothing more, would be enough to get on top of it.”
But minutes later Mr Johnson struck a more optimistic tone.
He said: “If we implement Tier Three properly in the way that it needs to be done then I do believe we can drive the R down in the way that we need to do.”
England’s top medic also took a pop at his critics, declaring: “The idea we can do this without causing harm is an illusion.
“It is a balancing act between two harms: a harm for society and the economy on the one hand and a harm for health on the other.”
London was placed in Tier One — medium risk — but Mayor Sadiq Khan warned it may be declared Tier Two “within days”.
He said: “The virus is now spreading very quickly in every corner of London. The number of cases is rapidly increasing and all indicators are moving in the wrong direction.”
He added: “London is at ‘medium’ in the Government’s new alert levels.
"However, Londoners should understand this could change very quickly — potentially even this week.”
Northern leaders whose areas avoided the harshest measures were “glad the Government listened” after threatening legal action.
It was led by Manchester mayor Andy Burnham who called for more help.
He said: “The PM must give all areas under restrictions full financial support. Anything less will see them levelled down.”
Eight North East council leaders, including Nick Forbes in Newcastle and Graeme Miller in Sunderland expressed their relief at avoiding the harshest restrictions.
But Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis said: “Local leaders face a situation where we are left without the tools and resources to control the virus, until cases spiral to the ‘very high’ alert level.”
The PM must give all areas under restrictions full financial support.
The PM also came under attack from his own party, with newly appointed Conservative Baroness Morrissey branding the new restrictions “insanity”.
She said: “Everybody is exhausted and dispirited and can see no end in sight.
"Instead of doubling down on a flawed strategy, the Government should be having a big rethink.
“After all, a popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Julian Knight, Tory MP for Solihull, slammed the government for plunging his area into Tier Two.
He fumed: “This decision has the potential to inflict untold damage on the hospitality sector.
“Making hospitality unviable by restricting the ability of households to mix, while not including those businesses in new support measures unless they’re forced to close, would be the worst of all worlds.”
Andy Street, West Midlands’ Tory Mayor, stormed: “The region was united, cross-party, in supporting the existing restrictions.
"We believed continuing these would have been the right call to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”
The Sun says
THE Sun understands why Boris Johnson decided as he did. But his new “Three Tiers” system is not the sensible middle-ground he pretends.
The other options were not just a ruinous, needless national lockdown — or recklessly “letting the virus rip”.
A simpler, saner idea is backed by The Sun and many scientists worldwide:
That the old, sick and vulnerable be protected as best we can while allowing the rest, and our economy, to function normally through observing the basic anti-Covid measures we all know.
That would be less destructive than wiping out pubs — and creating for now a yawning North-South divide.
It would avoid too the chaos of imposing different curbs on different regions, then giving self-interested local politicians an effective veto. Boris’s tiers, to “simplify” the rules, already look a mess.
That said, we commend the PM for at least doing what he could not in March: Prioritising keeping schools, universities and most businesses open. And resisting even harsher restrictions of the sort his chief medic Chris Whitty effectively admits he wanted.
There remains, though, an imbalance in the Government’s thinking.
Boris’s scientists grimly unveil scary charts of rising Covid hospitalisations. Where is another, showing three million cancer patients missing out on screening since March to “protect the NHS”?
Or increasing depression among those barred from seeing friends and family?
As the graph plotting Covid deaths flatlines, or inches up, where is the one showing unemployment soaring towards four million? Or bankruptcies and benefit claims rocketing? Or the £40billion-a-year tax rises predicted to be needed to pay off the debt?
The scientists are weaponised to elicit support for only one side of the argument. And it works — the public back almost any level of lockdown, though we suspect that will change once joblessness hits levels unseen for decades.
Our question for the PM remains this: What if his strategy DOES head off the apocalyptic outcomes predicted? Will restrictions be relaxed?
And without a vaccine, which Boris concedes may never come, will they be reimposed again and again whenever cases rise?
Is this how he expects us to live, for ever?
He urged the Government to review it as soon as possible.
Last night a snap poll from YouGov found that 40 per cent of Brits say the new Covid measures do not go far enough. Just 15 per cent believed they were too harsh.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said workers on minimum wage in Tier Three areas will get nearly 90 per cent of pay.
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