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expert reaction to announcement of changes to tiers in England which will come into force on Saturday 19 December

The latest update to England’s regional tiers has been announced today by Matt Hancock.


Prof Rowland Kao, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:

“A key factor in these decisions is likely to be the expectation that the Christmas window of relaxed restrictions will likely lead to increased transmission. These restrictions now are therefore are an indication of how seriously they are being taken. An important point is that every week of reduced restrictions will need to be counterbalanced by probably longer periods of increased restrictions. If you consider that, even when restrictions were at their most severe the R number was about 0.7, a period of relaxation could lead to an R number around 1.5, similar to the levels it reached in mid-September and this would mean restrictions in place for at least twice as long as that and probably more, to get COVID-19 case numbers back to what they were before it. Thus any increased measures now, will pay themselves back after the Christmas period is over.”


Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor/Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester , said:

“I think this is a wise precautionary measure – to damp down virus transmission in the lead up to the Christmas 5-day relaxation – and afterwards, to restrict wider virus  transmission coming out of this break.

“Similarly, if London emerged from the national lockdown into Tier 3 rather than Tier 2, we might not be seeing the current surge in COVID-19 cases there that we are seeing now.

“I know this will be difficult for businesses but right now we are trying to stop people getting ill and dying from any infection acquired during this Christmas break – a relaxation which on paper looks like the exact opposite of what we have been trying to do all year – to shield/protect the vulnerable by reducing contact/mixing with infected individuals.

“These next few weeks will be a real test of resolve and self-control for everyone – and we will see the outcome of our efforts in the New Year in the NHS – and elsewhere.”


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


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