Michael Gove refuses to rule out putting all of England in Tier 4

Michael Gove has declined to rue out all of England entering Tier 4. (PA)
Michael Gove has declined to rule out all of England entering Tier 4. (PA)

Michael Gove did not rule out the entirety of England being plunged into Tier 4 restrictions as the government tries to get to grips with rising coronavirus cases.

The cabinet office minister warned of “difficult months ahead” but told BBC Breakfast he would not pre-empt scientific advice given to the government about whether more areas should be put in the toughest set of limitations.

London and several areas in the South East and East of England are already in Tier 4, which was first brought in ahead of Christmas amid fears about how easily the newly-identified coronavirus variant spreads.

“We review which tiers parts of the country should be in on the basis of scientific evidence,” Gove told the BBC on Monday.

“The Joint Biosecurity Centre will be making a recommendation to ministers, but I can’t pre-empt that because it obviously has to be a judgment based on the medical situation.

“As you quite rightly point out, the NHS is under pressure and these are difficult months ahead.”

Cases in the UK have been climbed above record levels within the last week, which has seen daily rises of more than 35,000.

The government has been investigating the variant, which could be up to 70% more transmissible and has now been found in other countries.

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said the variant accounted for 60% of London’s cases by December.

Millions of people in England – 43% of the country’s population – live in a Tier 4 area.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/12/24: A man walks past a 'Stay Home' coronavirus sign on Charing Cross Road. London has been placed under Tier 4 restrictions as cases surge and new strains of COVID-19 emerge in England. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Other parts of England could join London and the South East in Tier 4. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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The Tier 4 COVID lockdown rules explained
The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained
The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained

Restrictions in that bracket are effectively lockdown rules, with people told to stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to head out, like shopping for essentials or exercise, and non-essential retail must close.

It bans meeting people you don’t live with indoors and allows for meeting a maximum of one other person outside.

Those who gather in large groups face a £200 fixed penalty notice for the first offence, which doubles up to a maximum of £6,400 for repeated breaches.

Watch: More areas put into Tier 4