Covid: Boris Johnson confirms new three-tier alert system, with Liverpool ‘very high’

UK

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Media captionBoris Johnson explains a three-tiered level of rules to fight the coronavirus pandemic in England.

The Liverpool City Region will be on the “very high” Covid alert level from Wednesday, Boris Johnson has announced.

Confirming a new three-tier lockdown system, the PM said pubs, bars and betting shops will close on Merseyside.

Most areas of England will be on “medium” alert, with measures like the rule of six, but areas with local restrictions on household mixing are automatically on “high” alert.

The PM said all retail outlets, schools and universities will remain open.

It came after England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, said growth in Covid cases was a “nationwide phenomenon” and that “things are heating up” in areas beyond northern England.

The new system is split into three alert levels: medium, high and very high. Most areas in England are in the medium alert level – meaning current restrictions continue, including the 10pm hospitality curfew.

Areas already under additional local restrictions are automatically in the high alert level – meaning bans on household mixing indoors remain.

The Liverpool City Region – home to 1.5 million people – becomes the first area to enter the very high alert level, with the closure of pubs, bars, betting shops, gyms, leisure centres and casinos. Social mixing will be banned indoors and in private gardens.

Restaurants can continue to trade in very high risk areas – and pubs and bars which can operate as one – but people will be advised against travelling to and from these zones.

‘Narrow path’

Boris Johnson told MPs restricting interactions between people would save lives and help prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said “This is not how we want to live our lives but this is the narrow path we have to tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the massive human, and indeed, economic cost of an uncontained epidemic.”

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Image caption Liverpool City Region has some of the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases in England

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “sceptical” whether the government has a plan to get control of the virus and that it increasingly felt as if Mr Johnson was “several steps behind the curve”.

“The question today is whether the restrictions announced by the prime minister can bring the country back from the brink,” he said.

Labour mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson told the BBC “we agree with the government having to impose tougher restrictions” but that an argument for a stronger financial package for the city “wasn’t listened to”.

A further 13,972 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported on Monday, with 50 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test recorded.