Almost 70 per cent of England’s population will be living under strict tier three coronavirus rules from Saturday as “pressures on the NHS remain”, said UK health minister Matt Hancock on Thursday. Regions in the east and south-east of the country, including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire will move into tier three one minute after midnight on Saturday 19 December, as will parts of Surrey, East Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire. “I know that tier three measures are tough, but the best way for everyone to get out of them is to pull together, not just to follow the rules, but to do everything they possibly can to stop the spread of the virus,” Hancock told parliament. There will be 38 million people in the country living in tier three from Saturday, including other parts of England already under tier three rules.
Hancock said cases in the south-east of England had risen by 46 per cent in a week, with hospital admissions up by more than a third, while cases in the east of England had gone up by two-thirds in a week and hospital admissions had risen by nearly half. He also announced that Bristol and North Somerset would be able to move down to tier two on Saturday and that Herefordshire would also be able to move down, to tier one. “I think this is a wise precautionary measure – to damp down virus transmission in the lead up to the Christmas 5-day relaxation – and afterwards, to restrict wider virus transmission coming out of this break,” said Julian Tang at the University of Leicester, UK, in a statement.
Yesterday, the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments released a joint statement with advice on household mixing during Christmas. “The safest way to spend this Christmas is with your own household or your existing support bubble in your own home – and we strongly recommend that this is what you do if at all possible,” the statement said. It also stressed that “scientific advice is clear: the longer you meet others for, the higher the risk of you catching and spreading the virus” and that “if you do intend to form a bubble, you should keep the bubble small and your visits short”.