On Thursday (26 November), Matt Hancock announced which areas in England will be assigned to Tier 1, 2 and 3, respectively, under the so-called ‘COVID-19 Winter Plan’ set out by the Prime Minister earlier in the week.
England’s nationwide lockdown comes to an end on 2 December. Leeds, along with rest of West Yorkshire, is set to go into Tier 3, which corresponds to a ‘Very High Alert’, the same level it had been assigned just before the national lockdown came into force. Talking in the House of Commons, Hancock emphasised that ‘as tempting as it may be, we cannot simply flick a switch and try to return life straight back to normal’. In his accompanying written statement, he also added: ‘The tiering approach provides a framework that, if used firmly, should prevent the need to introduce stricter national measures’.
So, what does Tier 3 mean for people living in Leeds and West Yorkshire? With the new restrictions comes a revival of the ‘rule of six’, limiting the mixing of households to only outdoor spaces, such as parks and public gardens (but not private gardens). Bars, pubs and restaurants will stay closed, except for deliveries, takeaways and drive-throughs, whereas non-essential retail and indoor leisure centres such as gyms and swimming pool will reopen. The government website contains further details about the new measures. Crucially, the restrictions on household gatherings will not apply between 23 and 27 December, when up to three households will be allowed to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ and thus mix indoors. Finally, the tiers will be reviewed every 14 days, in order to identify any changes.
The new government plans, which Hancock’s statement describes as ‘reflecting the best clinical advice’, have come under a lot of scrutiny, with increasing pressure from Conservative MPs who are opposed to the proposed restrictions. As it stands at the moment, a vote in the Commons is expected to take place on Tuesday (1 December), with the new three-tier system coming into effect on Wednesday.
Hilary Benn, the MP for Leeds Central, has posted on his website the news of Leeds going into Tier 3. He wrote: ‘This will be devastating for hospitality businesses and the jobs they support because this is the time of year they rely on for sales’. He also provided some fresh statistics on the rate of infection in Leeds, which is said to have fallen by 27% in the week leading up to 26 November, with 296 positive cases per 100,000 people. He admitted that ‘there is still widespread community transmission’ but welcomed the good news coming from the vaccine front, which gives hope that we could return to some form of normality in the spring of 2021. He finally added that ‘preparations for the roll-out of the vaccination programme in Leeds are underway’.
Image Credit: Leeds List