THE North-East is set to find out whether it will continue under the strictest tier of restrictions over the Christmas period today.
The Government is expected to this morning announce whether the region will remain under Tier 3 rules in the first review of measures since the four-week national lockdown came to an end.
The Northern Echo understands that MPs across our region were last night briefed on what tier the region would be placed under as authority leaders renewed claims that a move to Tier 2 is currently ‘unlikely.’
On Wednesday afternoon, sources close to council leaders across the region said that “nothing had changed” since discussions between them, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Government health officials, took place on Friday.
The Echo previously reported that council leaders had heard health officials were said to be “concerned” over the effect of “Christmas bubbles” on Covid case numbers here.
They said that they were unlikely to recommend a drop in restrictions in the North-East over concerns case numbers “could increase” as up to three households are allowed to mix for five days over the festive period.
Yesterday, the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said he believed the Government would choose not to lessen restrictions in “many, if any” areas now that the capital has been placed under Tier 3 measures.
He said: “(I) had a call this morning with the local council leaders and Public Health officials who are feeding into the process and we’re making representations as well.
“My honest opinion – I think they will end up leaving us in Tier 3.
“I will be surprised if many areas are reduced down to Tier 2, if any, in all honesty with London now in Tier 3.
“I think everybody is being overly cautious about Christmas and I’m already seeing Scotland and Wales are not changing the rules – so three families can still meet over that five-day period but are suggesting that people think otherwise and maybe reduce this down to two families.
“A move to Tier 2 is possible, our rates are coming down, people are following the rules – but the argument from health officials rather than politicians is that if we are going to relax the rules too much at this moment in time, all of the hard work will be lost and we will find ourselves placed back in Tier 3 – especially over the Christmas period and into the New Year,” Mr Houchen added.
Today’s expected announcement of the tiers comes as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that people across England should “think hard” before meeting family and friends over the festive period.
SEE MORE: ‘Have yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas’
Speaking after confirming “Christmas bubbles” would continue to apply in England despite calls for it to be scrapped, the PM said a “smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas.”
- The Northern Echo will be bringing you coverage and reaction on Tier 3 as it happens throughout the day