UK regions may face Tier 5 restrictions

Parts of the UK could be plunged into tougher coronavirus restrictions following warnings from government scientists about the current status of the pandemic.

The initial three tier system was expanded ten days ago with the announcement of a new Tier 4 less than a week before Christmas, throwing many seasonal plans into disarray.

The new tier involved a general “stay at home” message along with instructions to not enter or leave areas under Tier 4 restrictions and the forced closure of all non-essential retail business.

But the new level of restriction could go even further than the full national lockdown implemented in November.

Secondary schools could once again be closed with union bosses demanding action. The current plan for schools, reiterated by Michael Gove this morning, would see pupils returning over coming weeks in a staggered fashion, but demands for closures continues to grow.

But the demands have not been unanimous and the government could face a countervailing backlash if it relents. Backbench Tory MPs have been critical of further school closures, with one suggesting it will lead to an “epidemic of poverty.”

The push for further restrictions comes as new data shows the second wave has led to more hospitalisations in England than during the first peak this spring.

As of Monday morning there were more than 20,000 COVID-19 patients in hospital according to NHS England, although daily deaths remain significantly behind the spring peak.

The new hospitalisation peak appears to have caused particular concern, as it emerged that staff shortages in the NHS are preventing the use of emergency Nightingale hospitals.

Speculation on tougher restrictions will likely be confirmed or refuted tomorrow, when new tiers will be announced by the Health Secretary in the Commons.