Londoners are to see tough new coronavirus measures imposed from midnight on Friday as the city enters Tier 2 of the Government’s Covid alert system.
The move means that the capital’s nine million residents will be banned from mixing with other households indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is now addressing MPs in the House of Commons with further details on the new measures.
While London is placed under “high risk” alert, swathes of the north of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands are set to be placed in the “very high risk” Tier 3, as Covid-19 cases continue to surge across the country.
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No decisions yet taken on Tier 3 moves
Matt Hancock said an agreement had not yet been reached on whether Greater Manchester and Lancashire should move into Tier 3.
The Health Secretary told MPs “discussions are ongoing” with local leaders on moving areas classed as high to very high, and thanked the leadership in Liverpool for their “public service and cross-party teamwork” in agreeing such an increase in the alert level.
He also told the Commons: “In other areas currently in the second tier where discussions are ongoing, no further decisions have yet been made but we need to make rapid progress.”
London, Essex and Elmbridge to move into the ‘high risk’ Tier 2, Matt Hancock confirms
The change will come into effect at one minute past midnight on Saturday, he said.
Health Secretary hails power of ‘local action’
Matt Hancock warned MPs that the virus is rising “exponentially” in the UK.
The Health Secretary told the Commons: “The threat remains grave and serious. In Europe, positive cases are up 40 per cent from one week ago, and in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands they’ve doubled in the last fortnight.
“And here, we sadly saw the highest figure for daily deaths since early June.
“Let us be under no illusions about the danger posed by this virus. Coronavirus is deadly and it is now spreading exponentially in the UK.”
“We must act to prevent more deaths,” he told the House of Commons.
The minister insisted that local action is at the heart of the government’s response.
Through Test and Trace we have a detailed picture of where the virus is spreading, he said, as he described local action as “one of the best weapons we have”.
Matt Hancock has begun by describing the situation as ‘grave and serious’
As circuit-breaker calls grow louder, students in England could face their own two-week lockdown:
England’s university students could face a circuit-breaker lockdown in December amid Government efforts to get them home for Christmas, it is reported.
The fortnight-long shutdown across universities would take place from December 8 to 22, according to the Guardian, which added that the plans are in their “early stages”.
The move would also see universities instructed to switch from face-to-face teaching to online-only lectures at the start of the month.
Boris Johnson previously said that measures were being put in place “to allow students home safely for Christmas”.
Matt Hancock will address MPs within the next few minutes. Remember to stay tuned.
MPs kept in dark on Tier 3 move
Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon said that Downing Street refused to tell MPs whether Greater Manchester was being placed in Tier 3.
The Labour MP tweeted: “The Covid-19 meeting with Government is over and it was absolutely pointless.
“No consultation, no evidence was shared on the likely impact of further measures, no economic analysis and no enhanced financial support.
“Wouldn’t even tell us if Greater Manchester is being placed in Tier 3 lockdown!”
Less than a third of site test results returned within 24 hours
Just 32.6 per cent of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending October 7 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.
This is up from 27.4 per cent in the previous week.
Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.
He told the House of Commons on June 3 that he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.
Less than 2% of home test results returned within 24 hours
Only 1.9 per cent of people in England who used a home test kit for Covid-19 received their result within 24 hours in the week to October 7.
This is down from 2.6 per cent in the previous week, but up slightly on 1.8 per cent in the week to September 16, which was the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.
Some 16 per cent of people received the result of a home test within 48 hours, down from 30.2 per cent in the previous week.
Test and Trace reaches lowest number of contacts since system was launched
Some 62.6 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England were reached through the Test and Trace system in the week ending October 7, according to the latest figures.
This is the lowest weekly percentage since Test and Trace began, and is down from 69.5 per cent in the previous week.
For cases handled by local health protection teams, 97.7 per cent of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to October 7.
For cases handled either online or by call centres, 57.6 per cent of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate.
‘One-size-fits-all approach’ to London is a mistake – MP
Bromley and Chislehurst MP Sir Bob Neill said the “one-size-fits-all approach” to move the whole of London into Tier 2 restrictions is a mistake.
The senior Conservative told Sky News: “I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s disproportionate for the whole of London.
“I can see some parts of London the test is met, but… there is a cluster of south-east and southern London boroughs where the rates are very much lower.
“And although they are increasing I think to move this way for the whole of London, this one-size-fits-all approach, is a mistake because of the very real harm it will do to businesses.”
Matt Hancock will address MPs in less than 10 minutes.
Stay tuned for all the live action as he announces the latest national restrictions.
Rees-Mogg admits finding face masks ‘tiresome’ but says MPs must lead by example
Jacob Rees-Mogg also revealed that he does not like wearing a face mask but that MPs should lead by example.
He told colleagues in the Commons: “I cannot pretend I like wearing a mask, I cannot pretend that I do not find it slightly tiresome that my spectacles steam up and that therefore one is slightly wandering around not able to see where one is going – but we are wearing masks because we are showing the nation what we ought to be doing and we are legislating at the same time.
“We have a personal responsibility, we have a duty to legislate, we have a duty to be here, we have to show the way.
“And to suggest that democratic accountability is not an essential service seems to be an offence to democracy.”
Mr Rees-Mogg also rebutted Valerie Vaz’s assertion that £100 billion has been spent on the Government’s ‘Project Moonshot’, test development programme adding: “I’m not sure where that comes from, figures get banded about, but £100 billion is a very, very large amount of money and I have to say, I think it might have been noticed had that much been spent.”
Record number test positive for virus in England
A total of 89,874 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to October 7, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.
This is an increase of 64 per cent in positive cases on the previous week and is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.
BREAKING: Government and Greater Manchester fail to come to agreement
The call between Greater Manchester leaders and 10 Downing St officials has concluded but there has been no agreement on new restrictions and there will be further meetings later today, a source has said.
Lancashire won’t move into top tier despite rumours
Lancashire MPs have been told that the region will stay under Tier 2 restrictions, despite speculation it would move into Tier 3.
A Labour MP confirmed to the PA news agency that the county will remain in the “high” Covid alert level, as opposed to “very high”.
For context, this graph tracks the number of cases confirmed across the UK since May:
Despite the mounting ‘circuit-breaker’ calls, some scientists have questioned their potential impact:
Scientists who proposed a short “circuit breaker” lockdown to delay Covid hospitalisations and deaths today admitted there may be little evidence of the measure working when temporary restrictions are lifted.
Professor Graham Medley and Professor Matt Keeling, members of a Sage sub-committee that monitors infectious diseases, suggested that a “two-week period of intense control” could reduce the pressure on the NHS.
But Professor Medley told a science briefing that the lag effect meant it would end “without seeing any significant impact on hospitalisations and deaths”.
Tier 3 move could ‘devastate’ businesses in Manchester
Lucy Powell, the Labour and Co-operative MP for Manchester Central, has said moving the area into Tier 3 lockdown will “devastate” businesses.
“Without any proper economic support this will devastate many businesses and lead to high levels of job losses,” she tweeted.
‘So much for levelling up’
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband tweeted: “Most businesses in Tier 3 areas will receive just a fraction of the support offered nationally during the first lockdown.
“So much for levelling up. Businesses across the country must get the support they need to survive.”