Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Home COVID-19 The great Tier 3 myth

The great Tier 3 myth

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IT’S well-known that local restrictions failed to prevent the autumn surge in Covid-19 infections. The areas placed under such restrictions during the summer were among the worst affected in the autumn. 

Nonetheless, it is now becoming commonplace to claim that the Tier 3 restrictions were responsible for bringing the R rate down ahead of the national lockdown. Does this stand up to scrutiny?

In at least seven areas placed under Tier 3 restrictions in October, including the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham, positive case numbers had peaked and begun to decline days, in some cases weeks, before the new restrictions came into effect.

Liverpool was placed in Tier 3 on October 14 but positive cases had been declining since October 8, six days earlier.

West Lancashire was placed under Tier 3 on October 17 but positive cases had been declining since October 13, four days earlier

Manchester was placed under Tier 3 on October 23 but positive cases had been declining since October 1, 22 days earlier.

Sheffield was placed under Tier 3 on October 24 but positive cases had been declining since October 8, 16 days earlier

Warrington was placed under Tier 3 on October 29 but positive cases had been declining since October 27, two days earlier

Nottingham was placed under Tier 3 on October 29 but positive cases had been declining since October 9, 20 days earlier

Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire was placed under Tier 3 on October 30 but positive cases had been declining since October 20, 10 days earlier.

This suggests local lockdowns are not necessary to end the current seasonal epidemic of Covid and that other factors such as population immunity are much more important. The absence of a second surge in London, hit hard in the spring, is also telling.

The October decline in Covid is actually a surprising turn of events. Not because we wouldn’t expect population immunity already to be kicking in – anyone who’s been following experts such as Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Carl Heneghan will have been expecting this since the spring – but because respiratory illness normally keeps rising throughout the autumn and well into December before easing off in the new year.

With other respiratory pathogens such as flu running at a low ebb this year, if Covid doesn’t resume its rise we could, ironically, be in for an unusually mild flu (and Covid) season. Particularly as hospitals have been quieter than usual for the time of year. 

Either way, there is no evidence the recent decline in infections should be attributed to lockdowns, local or otherwise.

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Will Jones
Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present (Grove, 2017).He blogs at https://faith-and-politics.com/

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