MORE of England will be plunged into the toughest Tier 4 lockdown as soon as Boxing Day, The Sun has learnt.
Ministers and medics met last night after the new mutant Covid strain was detected in parts of the South West, Midlands and the North – areas all currently in Tier 2 or 3.
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The mutant Covid-19 strain has spread ‘everywhere’ in the UK
Boris Johnson spoke on Monday during a media briefing in Downing StreetCredit: AP:Associated Press
An announcement on which areas face the clampdown is expected today – with the measures to kick in immediately after Christmas.
The Tier review was due to be reviewed on December 30, but fears the mutant strain is now “everywhere” meant it was brought forward.
The Sun understands a “Gold Command” meeting of public health chiefs and ministers was meeting last night to sign off expanding the hardest lockdown measures beyond London and the South East.
Health sources said it would not affect all of England “but there are many areas that need tougher measures and are seeing dramatic cases numbers.”
According to The Mirror, officials discussed plans to put Birmingham, which is currently in Tier 3, into Tier 4 before Christmas – meaning households in the region would no longer be able to mix on December 25.
Boris Johnson has battled to save his “festive bubbles” plan to allow families and friends to mix on Christmas Day itself, but medics have warned cases will soar because of it and tougher measures will be needed.
Yesterday the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned: “I think it’s likely that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced.”
And a government source said that “things are moving very quickly.”
It comes as…
The latest clampdown came on a dark day of soaring covid cases and deaths.
That daily death toll is the second-highest figure since May and only five short of the 696 deaths posted on November 25, shortly after the second national lockdown was announced.
The figures have increased by 37 per cent since last Tuesday’s figure of 506 fatalities.
And positive tests have also nearly trebled since a fortnight ago, when 12,282 cases were recorded on December 8.
Meanwhile the total number of Covid patients in hospital climbed to 18,080 – the highest level since April 22.
The hospitalisation figure peaked during the first wave at 21,683 on April 12.
Some 18 million people in London and the South East were plunged into Tier 4 on Sunday morning and were given “stay at home” orders by the Prime Minister – even over Christmas.
But several other parts of the country could also be at risk, where infection rates are high.
It’s four times higher than Gosport, in Hampshire, which has the lowest cases of all Tier 4 areas, at just 159 per 100,000.
Boston and Lincoln, both in Lincolnshire and under Tier 3, each have around 400 cases per 100,000 people.
And Rushmoor, on the border of locked down Surrey, is a cause for concern.
It’s under Tier 2 but with an infection rate of 378 cases per 100,000 people – higher than at least 22 Tier 4 areas.
Also on the list of at-risk areas are Stoke-on-Trent and East Staffordshire, which each have more than 300 cases per 100,000, according to PA analysis of Public Health England data.
By comparison, Tier 4 areas are reporting lower cases of 202 per 100,000 in Chiltern, 232 in North Hertfordshire, 248 in Welwyn Hatfield and 255 in Mole Valley.
A third of England has already been plunged into Tier 4
Which Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas have the highest infection rates?
Places in Tier 2 and Tier 3 with the highest infection rates:
Burnley, Tier 3: 438 cases per 100,000
Lincoln, Tier 3: 409 cases per 100,000
Boston, Tier 3: 406 cases per 100,000
Rushmoor, Tier 2: 378 cases per 100,000
Stoke-on-Trent, Tier 3: 341 cases per 100,000
Pendle, Tier 3: 338 cases per 100,000
Rugby, Tier 3: 337 cases per 100,000
East Staffordshire, Tier 3: 331 cases per 100,000
West Lindsey, Tier 3: 323 cases per 100,000
Wealden, Tier 2: 323 cases per 100,000
Uttlesford, Tier 2: 313 cases per 100,000
Wolverhampton, Tier 3: 300 cases per 100,000
Places in Tier 4 with the lowest infection rates:
Gosport: 159 cases per 100,000
Chiltern: 202 cases per 100,000
North Hertfordshire: 232 cases per 100,000
Welwyn Hatfield: 248 cases per 100,000
Mole Valley: 255 cases per 100,000
Guildford: 260 cases per 100,000
Windsor and Maidenhead: 273 cases per 100,000
Dacorum: 277 cases per 100,000
West Berkshire: 278 cases per 100,000
Wokingham: 300 cases per 100,000
East Hertfordshire: 305 cases per 100,000
Stevenage: 312 cases per 100,000
The timing of the next planned Tier review has sparked fears of a “New Year’s Eve blowout”, according to Health sources.
Tier decisions are normally implemented 48 hours later after the review, but there is concern New Years parties may be harder to police on the eve of another major lockdown.
A source said: “If you announce on the 30th that everyone is going into lockdown in two days’ time then its obvious people will go over the top.”
While plans for Christmas mixing in a limited manner are to go ahead, there will be a tough line on celebrating the new year.
Police have been told to strictly enforce Tier rules that night amid concerns large parties will spread the virus.
It comes after a Sage scientist warned the UK was facing catastrophe amid the mutant strain chaos.
Sir Patrick Vallance said last night the new Covid strain was spreading at terrifying speed.
He said: “It’s more transmissible, we’ve absolutely got to make sure we’ve got 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 its likely therefore that measures are going to need to be increased in some places, not reduced.”
Meanwhile, Sage scientist Professor Robert West, a psychologist at University College London, said an “economic human and social disaster” would follow unless the Government built up contact tracing systems similar to ones in East Asia.
He told the Guardian: “We need to reset our strategy and move rapidly to a zero Covid strategy of the kind that many have been proposing.
“It sounds expensive but the alternative could well be a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the country’s ability to control the virus and the economic, human and social disaster that would follow.”
And UCL professor of infectious diseases, Andrew Hayward has pushed for a third national lockdown.
I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country, and I think its likely therefore that measures are going to need to be increased in some places, not reduced.
Sir Patrick Vallance
He said: “I think it’s clearer to give a consistent national message because although the levels of risk are different in different parts of the country, they’re still there and they’re still substantial.”
The Prime Minister has denied suggestions that a third national lockdown is imminent, but he acknowledged at Monday’s Downing Street press conference that significant restrictions were likely to remain in place for months – he insisted, however, it would be a “very different world'” by Easter.
Already a third of the country are in Tier 4 – the new highest level of restrictions like lockdown.
At the weekend Boris Johnson was forced to tell people living within those areas to cancel their Christmas plans and stay at home once again.
And Brits across the country have been given “stay local” orders for their smaller Christmas celebrations, to stop the virus spreading.
Meanwhile, Christmas bubbles were almost entirely scrapped with those living in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 only able to meet loved ones for one day.
Shoppers filled a temporarily-pedestrianised Regent Street in London before Tier 4 restriction were enforcedCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Which areas are in Tier 4?
Surrey (excluding Waverley)
The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.
Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough
Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).