England’s new COVID tiers reveal North-South divide

England’s eagerly awaited unveiling of the new one tier system of COVID-19 restrictions has revealed a clear North-South divide, with the vast majority of areas being placed into the most restrictive tier three being in the North of England.

Only three areas- the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – have been placed into the least restrictive tier one. 98.7% of the country will be in tier two or three.

Many places are in the second-highest level – tier two – including London and Liverpool city region, which was previously in the highest tier.

Cities in the highest level of restrictions – tier three – include Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Birmingham.

Some areas of the North have escaped: Liverpool City Centre and Cumbria have been placed into tier two.

Gyms and close-contact beauty services like hairdressers will be able to open in all tiers. Under the new regime, which comes into effect on 2 December, everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

Prior to the unveiling on the 26 November, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said even those in the highest level of restrictions in England – tier three – would see a “tangible change” compared to the current lockdown.

Decisions on tiers are based on public health recommendations informed by the following factors:

  • Case detection rate – in all age groups and, in particular, the over-60s
  • How quickly case rates are rising or falling
  • Positivity in the general population
  • Pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity
  • Local context and exceptional circumstances, such as a local but contained outbreak
  • An area could be moved up a tier if these indicators are not improving, and likewise down to a lower one if they improve.

The system will be regularly reviewed and an area’s tier level may change before Christmas. The first review is scheduled for 16 December.

Differences between the new tiers include restrictions on where households can meet up:

  • tier one: the rule of six applies everywhere, indoors and out
  • tier two: the rule of six applies outdoors but there is no household mixing anywhere indoors
  • tier three: can only meet other households in outdoor public spaces like parks, where the rule of six applies

For a full list of the UK’s new tier system go to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/full-list-of-local-restriction-tiers-by-area#tier-2-high-alert.