Health secretary Matt Hancock has just announced to the House of Commons that all of Greater London will be moved from tier 2 to tier 3 for coronavirus restrictions from midnight this Wednesday, 16 December.
This is a further blow for the capital’s hospitality industry, which is once again restricted to offering only takeaway and delivery services, after only emerging from the second English lockdown on 2 December.
Parts of the south and west of Essex and the south Hertfordshire are also joining the capital in the more stringent tier, including Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Maldon, Braintree, Chelmsford, Thurrock and Southend, alongside Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and the Three Rivers local authority.
Hancock said: “We are seeing a sharp rise in cases in London and parts of the east and south east of England. Over the last few days we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the south east of England.”
However, he emphasised: “There is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease and the latest clinical advice is that it is highly unlikely that this mutation will fail to respond to a vaccine.”
Hancock therefore concluded: “We have to take swift and decisive action, which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease. In some parts of these areas the [cases] doubling time is around every 7 days. Hospitals across the capital, Essex and Kent are already under pressure and we know that this doubling of cases will be mirrored in hospital admissions.”
On the decision to move those English regions into tier 3, he commented: “We are acting ahead of the formal review date [on Wednesday] so that we can shift the curve. This action is essential to keep people safe, and early action can help prevent more damaging and longer-lasting problems later. When the virus moves quickly, we must move quickly too.”
The next review of the tier system will be 23 December, though that date marks the start of the 5-day Christmas ‘Covid bubble’ period.