What ‘Tier 5’ lockdown could mean as officials warn current system not enough

Brits already living in Tier 4 are facing ramped-up restrictions that would essentially form a new "Tier 5" lockdown.

As the Government struggles to get surging coronavirus cases under control, experts are warning that the current measures aren't strong enough to bring an end to the pandemic which has raged for almost a year.

But if parts of the UK were indeed to enter an unprecedented new phase of social distancing laws, what would they look like?

The Sun reports they would be harsher than the month-long November circuit-breaker lockdown, which saw pubs and non-essential retail close but schools and food shops stay open.

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The enhanced restrictions — which there is no evidence to suggest would be called Tier 5 — would reportedly more closely resemble the initial national lockdown in March.

Those measures, introduced as Covid-19 was circulating mostly in London, saw only the bare bones of retail remain open such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

Brits were instructed not to leave their homes except for a few exceptions — buying essential items, seeking medical help or exercising.

Anyone found breaking the "stay home" order was liable to be fined, and more than 10,000 had been issued by May.

The slogan "Stay at home, save lives" was pushed in government messaging, which later transitioned into "Stay safe, save lives" as restrictions were slowly eased over the summer.

It's unclear if, should the Government move ahead with harsher restrictions, they will return to telling people to stay home or risk a fine.

The Cabinet Office and the Department of Health have both been contacted for comment.

Last week the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned the fast-spreading new coronavirus variant could prove disastrous and cause the R-rate to surge above 1 in the coming month, Politico reports.

The committee's public health experts reportedly told the Prime Minister that a November-style partial lockdown won't be enough and are recommending a complete closure of schools, pubs and non-essential shops.

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"We are ruling nothing out, the new strain is of serious concern," a senior Whitehall source told the Express.

"Tier 4 appears to not be strong enough."

The discovery of the new Covid-19 variant, thought to be 70% more infectious than its predecessor, prompted the Government to call off the Christmas bubble scheme for approximately a third of the country.

Millions of Brits in London and the south east of England were plunged into Tier 4 days before Christmas, and Boris Johnson has since refused to rule out another national lockdown.

On Christmas Eve he said the mutant strain had put "very considerable new pressure" on the UK.

"We believe that we're going to have to get through this tough period now with, as I have said many times, very tough restrictions, with tough tiering," he said.

The Government had already announced that only primary school students, children of key workers and secondary school pupils in years 11 and 13 will return to school on January 4, with the rest taught remotely.

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