Four months of Tier 4 – everything we can expect in ‘brutally tough’ lockdown

Millions have been plunged into tougher Tier 4 restrictions as the new Covid-19 strain spreads rapidly.

And with the prospect of millions more following them and the latest lockdown lasting four months, what will the impact be on key areas like the economy, education and health?

Here, experts give their predictions…

Professor Azeem Majeed, Head of Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, believes the coming months will be some of the most challenging for the NHS.

He says: “There will be two main priorities: To rapidly implement the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“This is our best hope of bringing the pandemic under control.

“The second priority will be to ensure that people with non-Covid illnesses receive the care they need. This will be very challenging in the middle of a pandemic.”

Dr Keri Nixon, a consultant forensic psychologist, is worried about suicide rates after Christmas.

She says: “Many of the people who contact me for help have lost everything they had because of Covid.

“A lot of people have been suffering with loneliness but were holding on to the thought of just getting to Christmas. That’s been taken away.

“Now Tier 4 restrictions could stretch on for months.

“I think we are going to see some really debilitating mental health issues and the impact of all this will be felt for years to come.”

It’s not looking good for the hospitality sector, says Emma McClarkin, chief executive of The British Beer and Pub Association.

She says: “Even before the latest restrictions, our members estimated that up to 25% of pubs may not survive without adequate financial support from government.

“The prospect of the majority of the country being placed in Tier 4 or 3 for an extended period of time, will push many to the brink. I’d ask pub goers to use their local in whatever way they can – if they are open for takeaway only, please use it.”

Marc Cowling, of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, believes 123,000 businesses will fail by March, at a cost of 1.1 million jobs.

He says: “I am extremely fearful for the UK economy and particularly its small business sector.

“If we face a hard Brexit, a further 45,000 of our best SMEs [small or medium-sized enterprises] who trade into the Single European Market face a loss of £5billion in sales per annum. 

“On top of that, the self-employed and small business owners have suffered disproportionately from a decline in mental health and wellbeing during the crisis.

“Extending the crisis as it merges into the impacts of Brexit will mean more bankrupt businesses, more job losses, and a further deterioration in psychological well-being.”

PureGym chief executive Humphrey Cobbold believes months of Tier 4 will be “brutally tough”.

He says: “We’ve had around five months with no revenue in 2020 – to go into 2021 with one month, let alone four months, of no revenue would be extremely tough.

“We are a strong business and we will come through that – it will be extremely hard but we will come through.

“Many others, I suspect, will not without proper intervention and support from the Government.”

British Film Institute director of external affairs Harriet Finney is hopeful because TV and film production is allowed to continue in Tier 4.

She said: “The BFI, along with colleagues, have worked hard on getting the industry back up and running. We were heralded last year as one of the industries who kept the UK out of recession.”

She is also optimistic for cinemas, which cannot open in Tier 3 or 4.

“As part of the £1.6billion culture recovery fund we were able to negotiate [that] independent cinemas are included.”

Mirror Travel Editor Nigel Thompson says: “Travel is the service sector worst hit by this awful pandemic. Unfortunately, there is a real risk that not all businesses left will emerge intact.

“The pandemic is a catastrophe for the industry and Tier 4’s blanket ban is like throwing a drowning man a brick instead of a lifebelt.

“If Tier 4 goes on for several months, and without urgent government support, I dread to think what will be left of the getaway business by next summer.”

Steve Jeffrey, a headteacher in Worthing, West Sussex, says the Government’s last-minute decision to roll out coronavirus tests has “created a tidal-wave of horror amongst head teachers in the secondary sector”. 

He says: “The next few months will be significantly challenging and stressful. Maintaining a testing regime whilst running a school will be like organising lessons whilst managing a doctor’s surgery.

“Both are ludicrous ideas.

“If this new variant is as rampant as we are told, we risk further lockdown and catastrophic interruption of learning.

“Public exams may be under threat once again. Huge numbers of children and staff will be thrown together each day whilst a pandemic spreads like wildfire.”