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More areas could be in Tier 4 from Boxing Day as COVID cases rise

Written by on 23 December 2020

More parts of England could wake up in Tier 4 from Boxing Day as fears grow over the spread of a mutation of coronavirus.

Ministers will meet to discuss further possible measures on Wednesday after the UK recorded its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases, reports suggest.

The Daily Telegraph reported local leaders and health officials in Birmingham met on Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of the city being moved into Tier 4, while other areas could be moved up to Tier 3.

Genomic researchers have found the new variant, which is said to be 70% more infectious than previous mutations, has already spread around the UK with cases identified in Wales and Scotland.

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Health chiefs in Cumbria have said the variant is in the county and could be behind the sharp increase in cases there.

There is also a “high likelihood” the virus is in Lancashire, the county’s director of public health has said.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the prime minister to say his party would back any government moves to tighten restrictions if that is what scientists recommended.

To try to help contain the virus, 17 more areas in England are being offered community testing.

The government is set to announce rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests will be used to detect asymptomatic cases in the new areas.

Image:
Lateral flow tests are already being carried out at a sports centre in Hull

The move comes after the UK recorded another 36,804 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday – compared with 33,364 cases on Monday.

The rise was the highest daily increase in the UK since the pandemic began.

The 17 new areas join 106 others which are already signed up to roll-out rapid community testing in December or January, including some areas which are now in Tier 4 such as London and Medway in Kent.

The additional areas are:

  • Boston (Tier 3)
  • Lincoln (Tier 3)
  • Walsall (Tier 3)
  • Hartlepool (Tier 3)
  • County Durham (Tier 3)
  • Gateshead (Tier 3)
  • Newcastle (Tier 3)
  • North Tyneside (Tier 3)
  • Northumberland (Tier 3)
  • South Tyneside (Tier 3)
  • Sunderland (Tier 3)
  • Redcar and Cleveland (Tier 3)
  • City of Bristol (Tier 2)
  • North Somerset (Tier 2)
  • South Gloucestershire (Tier 3)
  • Coventry (Tier 3)
  • Calderdale (Tier 3)

Scientists have rapidly evaluated the performance of the lateral flow tests against the new variant of coronavirus.

The tests successfully detected the mutation.

Large scale community testing is a key part of the government’s “COVID-19 Winter Plan”.

The testing is intended to identify those with coronavirus earlier in order to break the chain of transmission and keep the virus under control.

The government has said around one in three people who have coronavirus do not show symptoms – and could therefore be spreading the virus without knowing.

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COVID vaccine ‘highly likely’ to work on UK variant

Targeted community testing is available for all local authorities in Tier 4, Tier 3, and in Tier 2 at risk of going into Tier 3, with authorities invited to submit their application.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am pleased to confirm 17 more local authorities will soon be rolling out enhanced community testing programmes as part of our plan to pick up more cases, more quickly.

“Working together we will help areas where levels of the virus are highest to reduce their infection rates and break the chains of transmission.”

“Roughly one in three people with coronavirus show no symptoms and so it’s essential we broaden testing to help identify those who are infected and infectious, unaware they may be spreading the disease.

“We are rolling out community testing more widely at a rapid pace, with 123 areas now planning to take part. If you are offered community testing in your local area, I would strongly encourage you to take up this opportunity to get tested and protect your local community.”

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