Covid: London likely to move to tier 3 amid rising rates

 London's Regent Street shopping district on Saturday 12 December

London faces a move to tier three - England's highest level of coronavirus restrictions - in the coming days, the BBC has been told.

Ministers and officials are said to be "deeply concerned" about a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases across the capital.

BBC health editor Hugh Pym reports London MPs have been briefed on the data, but no decision has been taken.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged ministers to act "with open eyes" and avoid damaging the capital's economy.

He said tier three could have a "catastrophic consequence" for hospitality, culture and some retail, as pubs and restaurants would be limited to takeaways or deliveries.

Council leaders in London are understood to be alarmed at the projected rise in cases and some are pushing for a "tier three plus" regime with tougher restrictions than tier three on its own.

Essex may also be moved from tier two to tier three, which would see hotels largely closed, sports fans excluded from events, and residents advised against travelling to other areas.

With Kent, Medway and Slough already under tier three rules, large parts of south-east England could soon join much of the Midlands, North West and North East under the strictest curbs on social contacts.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons at 15:30 GMT and later lead a Downing Street news conference.

He is also due to speak to London MPs shortly before he appears in the Commons, Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, said.

What are tier three (very high) rules?

  • You cannot mix indoors, in private gardens or in most outdoor venues, except with your household or bubble
  • You can meet in a group of up to six in other outdoor spaces, such as parks, beaches or countryside
  • Shops, gyms and personal care services (such as hairdressing) can stay open
  • Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must stay closed, except for delivery and takeaway
  • Sports fans cannot attend events in stadiums
  • Indoor entertainment venues - such as bowling alleys and cinemas - must stay closed
  • People are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas

Some areas in and around London have recorded large increases in confirmed coronavirus cases over the past week.

In the week to 12 November, Havering was the only area of London in the top 100 places in England with the highest infection rates, at 85th.

It now has the fifth highest rate, at 506 cases per 100,000, BBC England data unit's Rob England said.

Back in November, London had the third lowest regional rate of about 187 cases per 100,000, while Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the highest at 443 per 100,000.

Now the two regions seem to have swapped places, with Yorkshire enjoying the third lowest rate of about 170 per 100,000.

Hugh Pym described the situation as "fast-moving" and that he understood health officials presented data showing a sharp rise in virus cases - risking further rapid increases in the coming days.

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