AREAS of England that spent Christmas in Tier 4 are most at risk of being put under even tighter restrictions in the new year, experts have warned.
The government is reported to have considered a fifth tier of rules amid fears that current measures won't be enough to stop a steady rise in coronavirus cases.
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Lockdown measures throughout November brought England's daily cases down to around 15,000, but the government was forced to cancel a planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas amid a steady rise.
Tier 4 measures were introduced across London and the southeast just days before Christmas, and expanded to Oxfordshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk on Boxing Day.
But Tuesday saw a record 53,135 people test positive for coronavirus, and the continuing trend has prompted concerns that further restrictions will soon be necessary in the worst-affected areas.
A number of London boroughs, including Barking and Dagenham, Enfield, and Bexley, currently have seven-day infection rates of more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 of population.
The equivalent figure in Essex is 857, while in Kent it is 665.
That compares to a UK-wide average of 377 per 100,000 population.
The government has ruled out a tier 5 for now, but sources have said that it could soon be necessary.
WHICH WERE THE FIRST AREAS TO GO INTO TIER 4?
The areas that were first placed into Tier 4 are thought to be the ones most likely to enter a Tier 5 in the new year. They were:
- Central Bedfordshire
- Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford, Tendring)
- London (all 32 boroughs)
- Milton Keynes
- Surrey (excluding Waverley)
The new tier could see schools and universities ordered to close and Brits told to stay at home except for when they need to get food and make other essential journeys.
And experts have said that the areas likely to be hit first are those where tier 4 measures were first introduced before Christmas.
Speaking to MailOnline, professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, said: "Newham, Lewisham, Islington, Hillingdon, Havering, Haringey, Greenwich, Hackney – if anything (Tier 5) is going to be in London or predominantly in London.
"Whether it's the capital as a whole or particular local authorities within that, I'm not sure how they'll do it, but I expect it would be difficult to put some authorities in and leave others out."
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, added: "I really do think its going to be London and parts of the South East.
"They've been in Tier 4 the longest and it doesn't appear to be having any effect."
It comes after reports this week that the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or SAGE, had warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the country's R-rate could continue to rise in the new year.
The warning followed the identification of a new strain of the coronavirus in the UK estimated to be up to 70 percent more infectious than the original.
Minutes from a SAGE meeting held on December 22 have also revealed that members of the panel feared that the R-rate could remain above 1 even under a full March-style lockdown, the Independent reports.
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