Extra measures could be placed on top of Tier 3 restrictions – Vallance
Local areas could introduce “extra measures” on top of Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions because the alert level’s “baseline” is not enough alone to reduce infection rates, the Government’s chief scientific adviser has suggested.
During a Downing Street press conference yesterday, Sir Patrick Vallance said that “local knowledge and local insight” would help inform further measures to drive the R number below one.
His comments echo those of England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, who earlier this week said that the flexibility within the new three-tier system of alert levels for England could see “additional” measures guided by local health leaders.
Sir Patrick said: “It’s crucial that where the R is above one and the numbers are high, to get the R below one for all the reasons that have been outlined, including, of course, the hospitalisations which are increasing. So it’s crucial that’s done and there are a number of ways that it can be done.
“And as the chief medical officer said, Tier 3 baseline conditions on their own, almost certainly aren’t enough to get the R below one.
“But if you go to higher levels in Tier 3 and start adding in other areas then… they should be enough to get R below one, provided they are fully implemented and we all stick to them.
The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK still remains above one.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.
Asked for examples of further measures could help drive the R number below one, Sir Patrick said: “In terms of the extra measures, they’re all laid out what the extra measures are, and I think that’s where local knowledge and local insight can add and make sure that enough of those extra measures are put on top of baseline Tier 3 in order to get this working and to get the R below one.”
According to guidance covering businesses and venues in Tier 3 areas – those under the “very high” alert level – the Government could seek to agree “additional measures” in consultation with local authorities.
Options listed on the Government’s website include restrictions preventing the sale of alcohol in the hospitality sector, or closing down all venues while allowing for takeaway and delivery.
Tourist attractions, leisure centres, gyms, libraries, performing arts venues, community centres and “personal care and close contact services” could also be closed while ensuring the provision of elements like youth clubs, support groups and disabled sport remained.
In the Liverpool City Region, which is classified as Tier 3, additional measures to “baseline guidance” include not permitting the opening of casinos, betting shops, adult gaming centres, indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios and sports facilities – with an exemption for organised indoor team sports for disabled people and under-18s activities.
But in Lancashire, which will enter the “very high” alert level on Saturday, additional measures are slightly different.
From Monday, casinos, bingo halls, betting shops and adult gaming centres, soft play areas and car boot sales will not be allowed to open.
The press conference on Friday comes amid pressure on the Government to implement a short “circuit-breaker” lockdown across the country.
Commenting on the concept, Sir Patrick said: “A circuit breaker is a way of really pushing measures to the hard level to get R below one quickly and then to release it, and that would break transmission whenever you do it and it would therefore slow and buy some time in the epidemic.
“So it’s a way of doing it locally or nationally, but of course, in a way, it’s just an extreme version of what you’re trying to do to try and get R below one anyway.
“So there are different ways in which you can get R below one, and the circuit breaker idea is one way to do it in a sort of short, defined period.”