Coronavirus: the areas bracing for Boris Johnson’s tougher tier system

Restrictions levels set by central government according to strict criteria - with no local negotiations

The PM appears by videolink from self-isolation in No. 10
The PM appears by videolink from self-isolation in No. 10 to set out the new Covid rules
(Image credit: 2020 Getty Images)

More than half of England is heading for tighter Covid restrictions after the current lockdown than before it, under a new three-tier system unveiled by Boris Johnson yesterday.

To “control the virus effectively”, the prime minister said, it was “likely that more of the country is placed into Tiers 2 and 3 at first”.

That will mean households may not mix indoors, and no more than six people will be allowed to meet outdoors. And under the new system, pubs and restaurants in Tier 2 may only serve alcohol with a substantial meal - a rule that previously applied only in Tier 3.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

In this top tier, pubs and restaurants will have to stay closed.

“A massive lobbying effort is under way from local politicians and MPs arguing their areas should not face the highest level of restrictions,” reports Politico.

How will tiers be decided?

Despite the lobbying push, and “unlike the previous system, there will be no negotiation with local leaders over the classification”, City A.M. reports. Instead, the decision will be made according to five criteria:

  • total case numbers
  • cases in over 60s
  • the rate at which infections are rising or falling
  • percentage of positive tests
  • current and projected pressure on local NHS services

All areas in a given tier will receive the same financial support package, with a fixed payment per head of population.

Which areas will be in Tier 3?

“Northern leaders said they would fiercely resist a return to the highest tier,” The Guardian reports - but they are likely to be disappointed. Although the decision will not be taken until tomorrow, when the Office for National Statistics releases local infection data, most northern cities are expected to end up in Tier 3.

The exception may be the former epicentre of the UK outbreak. “Hope is increasing that Liverpool may be able to leave the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions after mass testing was hailed as a success,” says the Liverpool Echo.

London is expected to enter Tier 2, according to the city’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, while Kent, “where cases are rising most rapidly”, is “at risk” of Tier 3 restrictions, The Guardian adds.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Holden Frith is The Week’s digital director. He also makes regular appearances on “The Week Unwrapped”, speaking about subjects as diverse as vaccine development and bionic bomb-sniffing locusts. He joined The Week in 2013, spending five years editing the magazine’s website. Before that, he was deputy digital editor at The Sunday Times. He has also been’s technology editor and the launch editor of Wired magazine’s UK website. Holden has worked in journalism for nearly two decades, having started his professional career while completing an English literature degree at Cambridge University. He followed that with a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. A keen photographer, he also writes travel features whenever he gets the chance.