Matt Hancock set to announce 'traffic light' system for regional lockdowns

Christopher Hope
·3-min read
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is expected to announce a coronavirus 'traffic light' system - Jonathan Brady/ PA
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is expected to announce a coronavirus 'traffic light' system - Jonathan Brady/ PA
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

A "traffic-light" system to simplify the different regional lockdowns across England is expected to be announced by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, next week.

The new three-tier approach divides the country into different areas based on local infection rates, which will dictate the severity of local lockdowns.

The "traffic light" system will work alongside the new NHS Test and Trace app, which will see people scanning a special QR code to enter and exit pubs, restaurants and bars. The app – launched on Thursday – will then send a message to the user about the lockdown conditions that apply to their specific area.

The three-tier plan was signed off by ministers at a meeting of the Covid committee in Whitehall two weeks ago and is set to be unveiled by Mr Hancock after the Conservative Party conference next week. The graphic below shows how it could look:

They are attracted to the three tiers because the system offers a simple and transparent way for people to know what the restrictions are in their local areas.

Residents in Greater Manchester have been grappling with slightly different lockdown rules in Salford, Rochdale, Bury, Trafford, Tameside, Bolton, Oldham, Wigan and Stockport.

Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, said: "The national guidelines are simple to understand now – washing your hands, wearing a mask, staying apart, the 'rule of six'.

"We have also adopted local restrictions, and I appreciate that that can seem confusing, particularly if you are not in one of those areas and are not able to look up the particular guidelines for your own locality.

"The idea behind a more tiered approach would be that there is a national playbook and you are able to move between one of these three tiers as the number of cases in a particular area grows.

"And that will create a degree of consistency and make it easier for people to familiarise themselves with the rules in their own area if they go on the watchlist or if they progress up into local restrictions."

You can watch Matt Hancock announce local measures for Liverpool in the video below:

A Whitehall source said that while the restrictions for each band would be predetermined for the sake of clarity and transparency, the triggers for putting regions into the different bands would be less straightforward.

One source said: "It won't simply be a case of putting an area into the amber or red zone if their infection rate per 100,000 people goes above a certain number. If, for instance, you are doing a lot more testing in a certain area you will find a lot more cases, so it wouldn't be fair if those areas then had to suffer as a result.

"The trigger for going into the different bands will be a combination of the speed at which the spread is accelerating, the amount of testing being done, the positivity rate and so on. That is something that is still being worked on. But there will be a playbook that tells you what the restrictions will be in each band, so it will be a more straightforward system."