'No plans to reintroduce tiers' in England as Omicron surges in London

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People wearing facemasks in London's Covent Garden, after new restrictions have come into force to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021.
Omicron is dominant in the capital. (PA)

The government has said it has "no plans" to bring back COVID restrictions tiers as cases of Omicron surge in London.

The Omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID in the capital and is expected to overtake Delta everywhere else in the UK in a matter of days.

The case rate in London has more than doubled in a month and now has the second-highest in England behind the South East, which has also seen a sharp rise in recent days.

Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East have the lowest COVID rates and have had a steady rate of cases since late September.


The UK recorded its highest-ever number of cases on Thursday at 88,376 more than 20,000 higher than the previous peak in January.

On Wednesday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "I’m afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up.

"What we’ve got is two epidemics on top of one another – an existing Delta epidemic, roughly flat, and a very rapidly growing Omicron epidemic on top of it."

Watch: COVID records ‘will be broken a lot’ as cases soar, Whitty warns

Read more: Tory MPs take potshots at 'unelected' Chris Whitty over stark COVID advice

Questions have been raised in recent days over if the tiering system should be brought back, with such sharp variations in cases across England.

The system saw the areas of England subject to different levels of restrictions based on their current case rates.

However, even the highest tiers of restrictions at the time failed to actually reduce cases significantly with a full national lockdown always being introduced soon after.

Watch: Reliable UK data on Omicron expected in January

Read more: UK's 'first Omicron victim' died after refusing COVID vaccine

People also often found the differences in rules difficult to understand, especially around the edges of restrictions where someone may have been able to drive five minutes to find an open pub where the pub nearest their home was closed.

Prof Whitty told the public at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday to prioritise events that “really matter to them” over the festive period, in an effort to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

He said the government had to choose between “really unpalatable options”, adding that there was no clear data yet on severe disease and deaths from Omicron with two jabs, and what the picture was for those who have had boosters.

He added he “strongly encouraged” people to take lateral flow tests before meeting up and ensuring there was good ventilation.

Boris Johnson also urged people to “think carefully” before attending celebrations.

The cautious language over social occasions has led to the government being accused of imposing lockdown by stealth effectively putting people off going out without offering any financial support to the hospitality industry.

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