Boris Johnson Has Rejected A Plea By Tory MPs To Allocate Tiers On A Local Basis
Boris Johnson has appeared to reject calls to allocate coronavirus tiers on a more local basis (PA)
Boris Johnson has rejected pleas from his own MPs to allocate the tiers for coronavirus restrictions on a more local basis amid anger over the government’s plans post-lockdown.
The Prime Minister said he understood many people felt “frustrated" after the announcement more than 40% of England’s population would face the toughest measures from next week.
But he defended the plans for England outlined yesterday, saying they were essential to get coronavirus down.
"I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area. I totally understand why people feel frustrated," he said during a visit to a public health laboratory in Wiltshire this morning.
"The difficulty is that if you did it any other way, first of all you'd divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions - there has got to be some simplicity and clarity in the way we do this.
"The second problem is that, alas, our experience is that when a high-incidence area is quite close to a low-incidence area, unless you beat the problem in the high-incidence area, the low-incidence area I'm afraid starts to catch up.”
It comes after a number of Tories have written to Number 10 calling for the tiered controls to be assessed at a district or borough basis, after the entire county of Kent was placed into tier 3, despite some areas within it having few if any Covid-19 cases.
Earlier communities secretary Robert Jenrick sought to quell the growing rebellion by suggesting some places could be moved into a less restrictive tier before Christmas as the first review of the allocation of measures takes place on December 16.
He said he wasn't surprised some of his colleagues were unhappy with which level their constituency is being placed in, after only Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and Wight were initially put in the lowest tier, with the rest of the country not allowed any household mixing.
Mr Jenrick told BBC Breakfast: "There will be a meaningful review on or around December 16. At that point we will review the evidence against those five tests for every local authority area in the country.
"We will listen to the views of the local councils and their directors of public health.
"There are a number of places which are quite finely balanced in the country today where there was a strong case to be in a tier one degree lower than where they ended up, but on a balanced judgment they are in a tier up.
"In those places and perhaps others in the country, if people do follow the rules and if we do make the tiered system work, there is every reason to believe that they could de-escalate and go down a tier in time for Christmas.”
Speaking to Sky News he added: "We have also got to bear in mind that there will be an opening over the Christmas period which is likely to drive some higher rate of infection if some people choose to go and meet family and friends on Christmas Day and the days surrounding it.
"Our overall approach is trying to insure the tiers hold the line and that places are in a process of de-escalation. What we don't want to do is ease up too quickly and then find that in January we are having to put tiers back in place again.
"But there is every reason to believe that places could see a change at December 16-17 time.”
However Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, poured cold water on the idea by saying they will have had little chance to assess how well the tiered controls were working when they come up for the first 14-day review.
"I think that is quite an early time to be able to see what the effect has been. I think we will still be seeing the effect of the lockdown at that point in time," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"For me I think that is quite an early review stage. I can't imagine there will be huge changes at that point just simply because I don't think we will have accumulated much data by then."