The zones of levels 2 and 3 “should not move before January”
Areas dropping out of Tier 2 and Tier 3 anytime before next year would be unlikely, as the impact of relaxing Christmas rules will need to become clear first.
Boris Johnson said that “every area has the means to escape” after choosing to plunge England into a much harsher level system from December 2, but cold water has already been thrown over its promises.
More than 55 million people face Level 2 or 3 coronavirus restrictions as the Prime Minister warned that any easing could lead to a third wave and another nationwide lockdown.
Although all but a handful of rural areas are placed at level 2 – the tier system is expected to remain in place until March, a year after Britain was first locked out.
Only 714,000 people living in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight will be in the most lenient Level 1, where the rule of six applies inside and out.
He said the tougher measures “would pave the way for areas to go down the ladder, as soon as the situation improves”, stressing that mass testing is the key to “accelerating this moment of escape”.
However, a government source told The Times: “I wouldn’t expect anyone to level up until we are in the New Year. ”
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, also put the brakes on the prospect of widespread easing ahead of Christmas, saying that “almost certainly everywhere level 1 moves up to level 1 will see an increase in cases”.
He said the government could only risk dropping areas into the lower tier if it was “very confident” with winter being a notoriously difficult time for the already tense NHS.