DOWNING Street today refused to rule out the possibility of local lockdowns leading to another tiers system in England.
Yesterday Matt Hancock refused to rule out regional measures across the country in response to tackling the new variant – and promised to take whatever action needed.
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
Ministers are privately cautious about the possibility of returning to local measures, and Boris Johnson has insisted he wants the country to move together.
But hotspots are bubbling up in Bolton, and cases rising in Greater Manchester and London.
Today No10 was asked if local measures may include a specific tier system like the one which was in place last year.
It included a medium, high, very high and stay at home alert system, with different rules for different areas across the system.
Tier 4 see people told to stay at home in essentially another lockdown.
Tier 3 meant Brits were banned from mixing inside from others outside their household, and pubs and restaurants were shut up.
But as of the third lockdown, which was announced at the start of January, national measures across England replaced those.
In Scotland they have returned to a form of tiers, with Glasgow and Moray in higher restrictions than the rest of the country thanks to rising cases there.
Up there you can’t mix inside homes, but seeing others in pubs and cafes is allowed. And you cannot leave the area for the moment either.
A No10 spokesperson was asked today if a possible return to local measures may mean a return to the tiers system.
He replied: “Well I don’t want to sort of get ahead of where we are at the moment and start getting into hypothetical situations.
“As the Prime Minister’s set out we’ve moved as a country in step three, albeit with very targeted increases in search vaccinations and testing in these areas where we’re seeing rises.
“That’s what we wanted to proceed with if at all possible, but we don’t want to rule anything out.
“And I think until we have more data and more evidence we won’t be making those judgements.”
It came as No10 also refused to confirm that the review of social distancing may not now be done by the end of the month – over fears about the Indian variant.
The PM’s spokesperson would only say: “We want to do it as soon as possible, I am not going to give a set time for doing that.”
It raises the possibility of social distancing staying past June 21, if the variant throws things off track.
Government sources stressed they were committed to the measures they are implementing at the moment – which includes pumping extra vaccines into local centres, and having local buses drive around to help get people jabbed.
More pop up sites are in place in Bolton, and Blackburn the vaccine centres are opening longer hours, and extra communications campaigns are taking place.
Health officials are going door to door asking people to book their jabs, and more community pharmacies are offering them too.
It comes after the PM confirmed last week that second jabs would be sped up – with the gap between vaccines slashed from 12 weeks to 8.
Ministers think this strategy will help shield more Brits in hotspot areas and make sure they have as much protection as possible.
But officials are also worried about the number of people who have passed on a jab, and haven’t had one at all.
Some areas, including parts of Bolton, are being urged to come forward for jabs even if they aren’t in the eligible age range – contrary to the JVCI advice which means it should be rolled out by age.
Teenagers as young as 17 are being urged to come forward – with 9,000 people in the area jabbed at the weekend.
Huge queues were seen as locals lined up to get a Covid vaccine after claims that all residents could get a jab.