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Tier 2 restrictions will hold the line but not bring cases down – Chris Whitty

By Taz Ali, PA
·3-min read

Tier 2 of the latest restrictions to be implemented across large parts of England after national lockdown ends will “hold the line” but not bring cases down, the chief medical officer for England said.

Professor Chris Whitty also admitted that Tier 1 restrictions, the lightest measures which will be applied in only three areas – the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – could lead to an increase in infections.

At the Downing Street press conference on Thursday, he said: “Tier 1, which is very similar to the previous Tier 1, slowed things down but did not stop the rise anywhere.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

“So the reason why Tier 1 at this time of year, with the current measures we currently got before we have any vaccines, is relatively limited, is almost certainly anywhere going into Tier 1 will rise and the only places that are there are places with very low rates at the moment.”

He added he would hope that “in some months to come, possibly in some weeks to come, we’ll be in a situation where more places could go into Tier 1”.

“But we should not do that until we’re confident because the experience of Tier 1 previously was, and it hasn’t really changed, is that if you’re in Tier 1, the rate starts to go up.”

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, but the majority of people – including London – will be in Tier 2.

Mark Harper, the former Conservative chief whip, expressed scepticism about the Prime Minister’s claim that “your tier is not your destiny”.

Mr Harper, whose Forest of Dean constituency is in Tier 2, tweeted: “Unfortunately, just after the PM said this, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said Tier 2 would only hold infections level, and Tier 1 would see them go up.

“That rather suggests if you’re in Tier 2, it is your destiny – at least until the spring.”

He referred to the comments made by Prof Whitty at the briefing, in which he said: “Tier 2 looks as if it’s strong enough to hold the line, so stop things rising, but not reliably to pull things down.

“Tier 3 we think based on previous experiences is strong enough to pull things down from a higher peak.”

The Prime Minister said the Government was returning to the tiers approach because it had been shown to have an impact when used last time.

He told the press briefing: “The tiered approach was delivering, it was slowing the virus down and that’s why a tiered, reasonable approach is the right way to go now.”

However, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the previous tier system did not manage to decrease the infection rate enough.

Sir Patrick Vallance
Sir Patrick Vallance said the previous tier system did not decrease the infection rate enough (Henry Nicholls/PA)

At the press conference, he said: “The message is that the tiers worked in terms of slowing but didn’t work in terms of flattening and reversing it.

“The national lockdown looks as if it has flattened it and is sending it downwards and it is important we do bring it down because numbers remain high.”

Sir Patrick said one in 85 people in the country have coronavirus at the moment, numbers which he said were “very high”.