Pubs, gyms and casinos looked set to close their doors in England and non-essential travel to COVID-19 hotspots in the country was expected to be banned under new measures anticipated on Monday.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson will outline a new three-tier strategy for dealing with regional outbreaks of coronavirus after chairing a meeting of the UK’s emergency committee (COBRA) on Monday morning, with areas of the country expected to be labelled “medium”, “high” or “very high” risk.
The system is designed to tailor appropriate measures to combat the localised spread of the virus in different areas of the country.
Dubbed the “Local COVID Alert System,” the tiered framework will be determined by infection rates, with each level imposing increasingly stricter restrictions.
It comes as England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned on Sunday that the country was at a “tipping point,” adding that “the seasons are against us.”
“In our national fight against COVID-19, we are at a tipping point similar to where we were in March; but we can prevent history repeating itself if we all act now,” he said in a statement.
England’s R-number, which indicates the rate of transmission, is currently estimated to be between 1.2 and 1.5.
An R-number of 1 means that, on average, every person infected with coronavirus will infect one other person. Anything above 1 means that the rate of infection increases exponentially.
The new changes are expected to be announced in the House of Commons at 4.30 pm CEST with Johnson set to address the nation at 7 pm CEST.
Liverpool will be the first to see its level raised to “very high” after the city and surrounding region recorded over 600 cases per 100,000 population in the week ending October 6, Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotherham said on Monday. England’s average is 74.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Rotherham said the new restrictions would last four weeks before being reviewed again, adding discussions were ongoing with the UK government on “discretionary areas” where the region could dictate its own measures.
NHS Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have also put on standby to deal with COVID-19 patients or those recovering from the virus, Professor Steve Powis, NHS England’s medical director, announced at a press briefing on Monday.
Staff at the temporary hospitals, set up during the first wave of the pandemic, have been asked to be ready to receive virus patients as well as provide “elective and diagnostic services” for non-virus-related conditions.
The north of England continues to be one of the worst-hit areas, with 40 per cent of the country’s coronavirus cases recorded in the north-west.
Dr Jane Eddleston, who is Greater Manchester’s medical lead, said 30 per cent of the area’s hospital beds were now occupied by people infected with the virus.