Fresh data released in the next few days will determine new tiers being proposed across England as hopes emerge of the coronavirus reproduction rate dropping below dangerous levels.
The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said tiers for coronavirus restrictions after the national lockdown ends on 2 December would be determined on the number of cases and factors such as the speed of rising cases and the numbers of people aged over 60 testing positive for the virus.
“New data is coming out in the next day or so, which is why the actual specification of which tier goes into which place will be announced on Thursday, and it will be on the basis of a number of cases,” said Shapps, during an interview with Sky News.
He added: “For example, the number of cases in the over-60s, where it is much more likely or possible that it could be fatal.
“And things like the speed at which coronavirus is rising or falling in a particular area and a couple of other measures along those lines.”
He told BBC Breakfast that although half the country might be placed in the strictest tier 3 alert level, this would still allow for more freedoms than the national lockdown currently in place for England.
Shapps said: “I think it is the case that we do need to be a bit tighter on the tiers – tier 3 in more places is a strong possibility – but there’s still a difference between that and what we’re doing now.
“For example, in terms of the number of people that can meet outside in a public place, and a number of other things. We’ve been living through this nightmare for a long time now, we all know the only way to defeat this virus is, I’m afraid, to keep people apart and separate from the most natural thing, which is human contact.
“You can only breach that in a certain number of places and I think we’ve made our decisions as a country that that has to be for things like education and work while we get through this winter.”
But he agreed that the country’s test-and-trace system needed to be improved adding that the government had no choice but to spend a great deal on it during the coronavirus crisis. “We have to get through this coronavirus and I’m afraid there has been no other option but to spend a lot of money,” Shapps told Sky News. “We’ve said that we want test and trace to be a lot better.”
The system, which has to date cost £22bn, has been heavily criticised after a series of high-profile failures since its launch earlier this year.
The government has also announced that travellers arriving in England will be able to end their quarantine period with a negative coronavirus test after five days from 15 December.
Whitehall has said passengers who arrive from a destination not on the government’s travel corridors list can reduce the 14-day period by paying for a test from a private firm after five days at a cost of £65 to £120.
“We still wanted to make sure we had testing available for doctors, nurses and teachers and any others before turning to travellers, and we’ve done that by turning to the private sector for these tests,” Shapps said.
He added that the new system “will allow people rather than to quarantine, to do that on a test on day five, and as soon as you have a negative result you will be able to leave quarantine”.
The transport secretary said the new tests to reduce the quarantine period for travellers returning from places not on the government’s travel corridor list were not just for business travellers, despite their cost.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I expect what will happen as this market gets going is we’ll see the cost of tests being driven down.
“Particularly as some of these new types of tests have come around, and rather than specifying – people have heard terms like PCR tests and lab tests and lateral flow – rather than specifying a type of test we’ve specified a specification standard for these tests – medical experts have.
“It’s up to companies to innovate if they can produce a test for much less money, or indeed much faster turnaround, then they’re welcome to do that as long as it meets the very exacting standards.”
The post England’s Covid tier system to be based on data released in next few days appeared first on The Guardian.