Levelling up or levelling down?
Our government has introduced a three-tier system for determining the local state of COVID infection and how restrictions in each area of England are to be applied. The grades are instructive.
The three categories are:
- Medium alert level – This will cover most of the country and will consist of the current national measures, which came into force on 25 September. It will include the Rule of Six and the closure of hospitality venues at 10pm.
- The High alert level – This will reflect many of the current local interventions, but there will now be consistency across the country. This primarily aims to reduce household to household transmission by preventing all mixing between households or support bubbles in any indoor setting. The Rule of Six will apply in outdoor spaces, including private gardens. Most areas which are already subject to local restrictions will automatically move into the “high” alert level.
- The Very High alert level – This will apply where transmission rates are causing the greatest concern, based on an assessment of all the available data and the local situation. This includes incidence and test positivity, including amongst older and more at-risk age groups, as well as the growth rate, hospital admissions and other factors. In these areas, the government will set a baseline of prohibiting social mixing indoors and in private gardens, with the Rule of Six allowed in open public spaces like parks and beaches. Pubs and bars must close and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant – which means serving substantial meals – like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal. People will be advised not to travel in and out of these areas and avoid staying overnight in a 'Very High' area if resident elsewhere.
What is instructive is the absence of a Low alert level.