A Government minister today refused to rule out tiered lockdowns returning when England’s national measures are planned to end next month.
Environment Secretary George Eustice revealed No10 was ‘closely monitoring’ several localised coronavirusoutbreaks that have cropped up in recent weeks. Analysis shows that while national infections have continued to stay flat, there are 12 boroughs where cases have doubled in a week.
Mr Eustice said scientists were unsure what was driving the flare-ups — predominantly in the North of England — but suggested people may have become ‘too lax’ with Covid rules, or the highly-infectious Indian variant could be driving cases.
Scotland has already refused to ease restrictions in Moray when the rest of the nation takes the next step to freedom on Monday because of the area’s growing outbreak.
Asked if local restrictions could be reimposed in England to squash local outbreaks during a round of interviews today, he said: ‘We can’t rule anything out.’
He told Sky News: ‘But our plan that’s been set out by the Prime Minister, the reason we’re being incredibly cautious about exiting lockdown, is we want this to be the last. We want to try and avoid having to get into a tiered system and regionalisation. We tried that last autumn, we know that in the end we had to go for a full lockdown.’
Most social distancing restrictions in England are to be lifted on June 21 as part of the final step in No10’s roadmap out of lockdown. Boris Johnson this week raised hopes that an end to Covid measures may be sight, suggesting social distancing could be scrapped completely by next month.
The tiered system last summer was heavily criticised for being too convoluted, with people in neighbouring streets often living by a completely different set of rules. The Prime Minister himself admitted they were ‘confusing’ as he struggled to explain the difference between restrictions imposed in the North East in September.