Coronavirus in Sheffield: Will South Yorkshire return to Tier 3 and when will lockdown end?
Sheffield is expected to learn soon whether it will return to Tier 3 restrictions once the national lockdown ends.
The Government is due to decide next week what to do once the England-wide lockdown ends on December 2, with scientists calling for a tougher tiered lockdown system than that which preceded it to keep down coronavirus infection rates.
South Yorkshire was among the areas under the highest Tier 3 restrictions before the national lockdown began, meaning pubs not serving substantial meals had to close and households were banned from mixing indoors and in private gardens.
But the infection rate in Sheffield has dropped considerably in recent weeks, with new cases also starting to fall in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.
On October 23, the day before Sheffield was placed into Tier 3 lockdown, the city’s weekly infection rate stood at 424.9 new cases per 100,000 people – the 22nd highest figure in England.
By November 4, the day before the national lockdown began, that was down to 411.6, and it now stands at 304.0 – the 92nd highest nationally.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick today said ministers want to see a ‘significant easing’ of coronavirus controls when the national lockdown is lifted, but he suggested tighter controls may be needed in Tier 3.
His comments came after Susan Hopkins, medical director of Public Health England (PHE) and chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said ministers would have to look at ‘strengthening’ the tier system.
Tier 1 restrictions that covered huge parts of England had ‘very little effect’, she said, adding that even Tier 2 only worked in some areas.
Mr Jenrick told Sky News this morning that any extension to the national lockdown would require a vote of Parliament.
“It is our hope and expectation that that won’t be the case and that people in England will be able to move back into the tiered system,” he said.
“There will be a review. That work is undergoing on what those tiers look like and how local areas go back in but that will very much depend on the data.”
He added that decisions would be made nearer the end of the month but that ‘we all want to see a significant easing of the measures in all parts of England at the beginning of next month’.
Asked on BBC Breakfast whether there could be a tougher tier than Tier 3, he said: “We haven’t come to a decision on that.
“The Tier 3 that we had before was just considered a baseline.
“And then we did ask local areas whether they would be willing to go further and some did.”
He added that it was yet to be decided whether ‘tweaks’ to the tiers in some areas should be ‘embedded’ in the new system.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday it was ‘too early for us to know’ whether coronavirus cases will be brought down sufficiently to ease the lockdown.
But he added: “We hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before.”
A public health consultant in Sheffield said last week that she did not know what rules would be in place there once the national lockdown ends but that it was ‘unlikely to be a normal Christmas’.