COVID tiering system has been 'catastrophic failure', says London mayor Sadiq Khan

Ellen Manning
·3-min read
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan looks on as he answer journalists questions after a meeting on February 18, 2020 at the European Parliament in Brussels. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
Sadiq Khan says there should be so return to the tier system after lockdown. (Getty)

There should be no return to the coronavirus tier system, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said as he branded it a "catastrophic failure".

Khan said the tier system, first introduced in October, hadn't worked and the government should "learn the lessons" of its past mistakes.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a roadmap out of the latest national lockdown on Monday.

He has indicated he will proceed with a national approach rather than a return to tiers, saying a whole-country system "might be better this time round".

Watch: Labour leader fears England tier system 'not strong enough'.

Khan said on Friday: "I think the government’s tiering system hasn’t worked, it has been a catastrophic failure and that’s why I think we need to look towards the country as a whole.

"The reality is what we can’t do is lift lockdown because we’ve seen good progress in one part of the country, which inadvertently leads to a lack of progress in another part of the country.

"I think we’ve got to learn the lessons of the mistakes made in the past."

Read more: Pubs' 10pm curfew had little effect on reducing spread of coronavirus, study suggests

Khan's comments echo earlier sentiments from Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who has called for a national approach rather than regional measures depending on local infection rates.

Professor Dame Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Defence, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee this week that the government was too slow to move areas into higher tiers under the previous system.

She said: “It was the way we used the tier system – we waited until prevalence was high before putting it into a more restrictive tier.

“What we should have done was say: ‘Look, this part of the country, the number of infections is starting to grow’, and (we should have) put them into higher tiers while their infection (rates) were still low.”

She added: “It was the way that we used the tier system that we need to do different this time – to use the tiers to act when prevalence is low but growing.”

In November, experts criticised the tier system, saying it "was not very well thought out".

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said at the time: "The problem with the tier system is Tier 1 doesn't do much at all, Tier 2 probably has some effect, but not a great deal, and Tier 3 seems to be able to hold the epidemic.

"The problem with the tier system is that inevitably you end up with quite a lot of places with high incidence under those circumstances.

"Because the Tier 1 and Tier 2 ones just eventually drift up into Tier 3 with a high incidence, and then Tier 3 holds it there."

He added: "It wasn't a very well thought through strategy, frankly."

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown