England Faces Potential 'Tier 4' Restrictions After Christmas

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation warns that Christmas is "not worth the risk".
London, GB
Photo: Pool / Reuters

In January, regions of England with high COVID infection rates could face even tougher restrictions than areas under Tier 3 rules, with Boris Johnson not ruling out a third national lockdown.

A government source told The Times: “There is a case for going further than Tier 3, and it is getting stronger.” This would mean “closure of non-essential retail [and] stay-at-home orders”, along with a ban on commuting and possibly an extra week of school closures. A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also suggested that tougher restrictions will likely be needed after Christmas.

Even though COVID infection rates are rising, the government is going ahead with its Christmas plan, which will see the rules relaxed for five days between the 23rd and 27th of December. This will allow for travel between tiers, and for “Christmas bubbles” comprising people from three households.

Various government ministers have urged people to stay local if they can. Boris Johnson told the House of Commons, “We should exercise extreme caution in the way we celebrate Christmas."

However, the policy has still come under attack: two leading medical journals published a joint editorial describing the policy as as “rash decision” that will “cost many lives”. This perception appears to be shared by the general public: According to a YouGov poll, 57 percent of people in the UK believe that it should be scrapped.

The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, has warned that Christmas is “not worth the risk”. In an appeal to European countries, it said: "There remains a difference between what you are being permitted to do... and what you should do.” It’s clear that whatever happens during the Christmas period, it will have a significant effect on the rates we can expect to see in January.