COVID-19: Millions more in England enter Tier 3 restrictions as some hospitals cancel treatments

·3-min read

More areas of England have moved into Tier 3 meaning nearly 70% of the population are living under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this week that parts of the East and the South East of England would be moved up to the most severe measures.

Mr Hancock told the Commons that the following areas would be moved up to Tier 3 on Saturday morning at one minute past midnight:

  • Bedford

  • Central Bedfordshire

  • Luton

  • Milton Keynes

  • Buckinghamshire

  • Reading

  • Wokingham

  • Bracknell Forest

  • Windsor and Maidenhead

  • West Berkshire

  • Peterborough

  • The rest of Hertfordshire not already in Tier 3 (Dacorum, East Hertfordshire, North Hertfordshire, St Albans, Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield)

  • Surrey (except Waverley)

  • Hastings and Rother

  • Portsmouth

  • Havant

  • Gosport

The move means a total of 38 million people are now living under Tier 3 restrictions - 68% of England's population.

In Tier 3 areas, pubs and restaurants have to close except for takeaway, while indoor entertainment and tourist venues are also shut.

Bristol and North Somerset have dropped from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

Herefordshire has been moved down from Tier 2 to Tier 1.

Some 30% of the population are now in Tier 2, with just 2% in Tier 1.

More areas have been moved into Tier 3 as the R number in the UK is estimated to have gone up to between 1.1 and 1.2, according to the SAGE group of government advisers.

The growth rate of COVID-19 is therefore estimated to be between 1% and 4%.

It comes as hospitals across south-eastern England are postponing non-urgent procedures because some are facing double the number of coronavirus patients they had in the spring.

The NHS in Kent confirmed on Friday evening that it would be putting a stop to some planned treatments across the region "due to the increase in COVID patients being treated".

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust had 221 COVID-19 patients on 16 December, more than 120 more than the 98 they had in the first peak on 8 April.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust was treating 357 people with coronavirus on Wednesday, almost twice the maximum number they had at any point in spring, when figures topped out at 187 on 20 April.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which serves around 2.5 million people in east London, said on Thursday it has moved to the "high pressure" phase of its winter escalation plan.

A Barts Health spokesman said: "We are treating high numbers of patients with COVID-19, and in line with our winter escalation plan we have moved into a 'high pressure' phase and are taking steps to keep our patients safe.

"These include deferring some routine procedures over the coming days so we can redeploy staff and increase the number of critical care and general beds available."

The trust, which operates across four major hospital sites The Royal London, St Bartholomew's, Whipps Cross and Newham, said the plan will not affect cancer patients and that people will be contacted directly if their elective procedures need to be postponed.