Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday revealed that the tier system will likely not return when the government lifts restrictions, currently planned for March 8th.

The PM has said that a national approach may be more appropriate this time around. Later this month, on February 22nd, the government has promised to reveal Britain’s roadmap out of lockdown and back to normality. As we reported yesterday, some in Whitehall are claiming is could be a full ‘business as usual’ as soon as May, though the PM has remained tight-lipped on this front.

Addressing reporters in Batley, West Yorkshire, Boris said “It may be that a national approach, going down the tiers in a national way, might be better this time round, given that the disease is behaving much more nationally.

“If you look at the way the new variant has taken off across the country, it’s a pretty national phenomenon.

“The charts I see, we’re all sort of moving pretty much in the same sort of way, I mean there are a few discrepancies, a few differences, so it may be that we will go for a national approach but there may be an advantage still in some regional differentiation as well. I’m keeping an open mind on that.”

It’s fair to say that the regional tier system was not an unalloyed success, introduced to prevent a national lockdown they were never enough to stave off the spread of coronavirus, particularly the new, more transmissible, strains.

It's fair to say that the regional tier system was not an unalloyed success...

As a result, almost every area travelled through the tiers in one direction only (toward tighter restrictions) with the spread being so rapid that the government had to invent two new tiers before giving up and declaring a return to national lockdown.

With news that the UK’s vaccination programme is going incredibly well and preliminary results around the vaccine’s efficacy and positive effect on transmission, the easing may not need to be localised in the same way as before a vaccine was available.

It is hoped that by March all the most vulnerable groups (and then-some) will be protected against the virus and as a result the regional approach will be largely obsolete.

Instead we’d expect any future lockdowns to be hyper localised when new variants break out, as they will. The government will then be able to swarm the area with testing and support, a version of which is currently happening in areas of Surrey, Croydon and elsewhere after the South African variant popped up there.

So farewell to the tiers system, another thing that we’ll be happy to leave in 2020. Don’t be offended if we don’t tier up (geddit?). The only thing we’ll miss about you are the terrible puns…

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