Parts of the North West, the Midlands, North East and parts of the South West are among those being escalated from Tier 3 to harsher Tier 4 restrictions – essentially an order to stay at home – from the beginning of Thursday 31st December 2020.
This includes Greater Manchester (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan) as well as Cheshire and Warrington.
Between 18th and 24th, December the weekly case rate in England rose to 402.6 per 100,000, a 32% increase on the previous week, government figures say.
The NHS reports 14,915 patients have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the past week, a 18% increase on the week before.
In the North West, rates have increased by 31% to 223.9 per 100,000.
Evidence shows the new strain of COVID-19 is also increasing in the South West, Midlands and parts of the North West.
What does Tier 4 mean?
Tier 4 restrictions mean several changes.
People must not leave their home or garden unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ including where reasonably necessary for work, education, exercise or open air recreation and essential activities such as medical appointments and to buy food.
People must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or most outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with. Everyone who can work from home should do so.
People can see only one other person that they do not live with (or do not have a support bubble with) in certain public outdoor places – such as parks, public gardens, or outdoor sports facilities.
Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 6 people can attend wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions are not allowed, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, 6 people can attend linked commemorative events.
Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, holiday lets and guest houses must close, other than where very limited exceptions apply.
Hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha bars), pubs, cafes, restaurants, and social clubs must close except for takeaway, delivery, drive-through and click and collect services. Takeaway must cease between 11pm and 5am, but delivery, drive-through and click-and-collect may continue during this period. This includes restaurants and bars within hotels or members’ clubs.
Indoor entertainment venues, such as casinos, bowling alleys, and bingo halls must close. Cinemas, theatres, and concert venues must also close.
Certain outdoor venues, such as botanical gardens, heritage sites, and zoos and other animal attractions may stay open, although indoor elements at these attractions must also close.
All indoor leisure and sports facilities must close except where a legal exemption exists, such as for the training of elite sportspersons.
Reaction from Manchester leaders
“The new strain of coronavirus is cause for concern and the enhanced restrictions should be followed judiciously to limit the spread of the variant, which we know passes more readily between people,” said Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council.
“The prospect of Tier 4 will be received once again as a critical blow to the city’s hospitality industry – along with wider retailers who will also now need to close – and whose resilience to the economic impact of the virus is wearing ever thin.
“It is clear that businesses will not be able to survive indefinitely if they are forced to close.
“Remember that Manchester has been living with enhanced restrictions since March with little respite, and the key question is what further support can businesses expect from Government if they are asked to continue to shut up shop at a crucial time in their trading year.”
David Regan, Director of Public Health for Manchester, said that although there is no evidence that this new variant of the virus causes people to be more ill than previous strains, the fact that it can spread from one person to another more easily is cause for concern.
“However, we already know the best ways of protecting ourselves and loved ones from the virus,” he said.
“And it remains as important as it ever was to follow the rules in place to keep us safe – by washing hands, keeping distance from others, and wear a face covering.
“If you do have symptoms, book a test immediately. And if you’re contacted to receive the vaccine, please attend your appointment.”
Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, said: “I know this will be disappointing news for our residents and for so many of our local businesses who must once again close their doors.
“But we must remain focused. To keep one another safe we must follow the rules and the guidance.
“It is only then can we expect to see the positive changes we need to help Manchester move out of this highest tier.”