The Prime Minister has warned of a “New Year national lockdown” if people are too complacent, as Lincolnshire is put under the toughest of coronavirus restrictions along with most of the north of England.
Speaking during a press conference on Thursday evening, Mr Johnson said data was promising and suggested the rate of infection had slowed and or was reversing.
However, he said: “Those dangers have not gone away. If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again, casting aside our hard-won gains and forcing us back into a New Year national lockdown.”
“The faster we can drive it down, the faster we can lift the restrictions – and that is what the tiers are designed to achieve,” he said.
Mr Johnson apologised to pubs and restaurants which he called the “soul of the community”.
He said they “continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden”.
“I really wish it were otherwise, but if we’re going to keep schools open, as we must, then our options on bearing down on the disease are limited,” he said.
Government advisors said a previous version of tier 1 had not been strong enough to stop growth, while tier two had “held the line”. They said tier 3 had started to “pull things down”.
Parts of Lincolnshire, including East Lindsey and Boston, have among the highest infection rates across the nation.
Political leaders in the region expressed their disappointment at the county-wide tier, but called on residents to pull together to get Lincolnshire out of the rut.
The county and its neighbours will have until December 16 to beat the government’s five key indicators, which are:
- case detection rates in all age groups (currently 307)
- case detection rates in the over 60s (281 now)
- the rate at which cases are rising or falling
- positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken)
- pressure on the NHS (high currently)
Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh also added his weight behind the call for more local restrictions and controls.
He said: “I’m very disappointed all of Lincolnshire is being included in tier 3.
“Infection spikes have been highly localised and it would make much more sense to impose tiers at the district level rather than county.
“Those unaffected should be allowed to get on with their lives and work. Infection spikes have been highly localised and it would make much more sense to impose tiers at the district level rather than county.”
South Holland District Leader Lord Gary Porter has also said it was unfair for his district to be locked down to tackle high numbers in East Lindsey.
Following Thursday’s announcement he said: “It’s disappointing the government has placed South Holland into tier 3 despite below average indicators and the fact that Peterborough has been placed in tier 2, which borders our district.
“This shows a lack of nuanced thinking from the government.
“While this is disappointing news, especially for our businesses in the pub and restaurant sectors who were relying on Christmas trade, now is the time to come together as a community and let’s get out of these restrictions as soon as we can.”