Full national lockdown from Boxing Day mooted at Government Gold Command meeting

The Government today held a meeting to consider plunging Birmingham into Tier 4 before Christmas – and a nationwide lockdown straight after.

The Gold Command meeting on Tuesday discussed plans to put Birmingham, which is currently in Tier 3, into Tier 4 ahead of Christmas, The Mirror understands.

One source in the meeting said: “The situation is developing quickly so we need to respond at the same pace. 

“It’s more likely that other parts of England could be put into Tier 4 from Boxing Day”.

Gold Command meetings bring together top health officials, politicians and local leaders to consider how to contain the virus in an area.

Sources in the meeting said they eventually decided that they could delay the drastic move for now.

But officials also pushed for the whole of England to go into Tier 4 from Boxing Day to try to curb the new mutant variant.

The Cabinet are understood to have previously discussed plunging the whole country into the highest tier – effectively a national lockdown – when it met on Saturday.

Ministers eventually decided to focus initially on London and the South East, where cases of the new variant are highest.

However, the Government is once again considering imposing a national Tier 4 lockdown after Christmas to curb the spread of the new rapidly spreading strain.

An announcement on a post-Christmas lockdown could come as soon as Wednesday. 

Some in Whitehall want new restrictions to kick in across the UK as early as Boxing Day, but many in Government are pushing for it to be delayed by a few days to avoid more travel chaos.

The tier review had been due on December 30, but fears the mutant strain is now “everywhere” is leading to decisions being brought forward.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove led the calls at today’s meeting for Tier 4 to be imposed nationwide, sources said. 

That prompted one minister to joke after: “Just because Michael’s family don’t want to see him doesn’t mean he should be able to stop us seeing ours.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that with cases going up just 1% in that region, he didn’t think Tier 4 was justified just yet.

He claimed it was “not inevitable” that there would be another national lockdown post-Christmas if the existing restrictions worked.

But he warned: “We might just be facing now the most dangerous moment of this pandemic.

“We’re all thinking about closing down, signing off… but we’re not in that position this year.

“There are real risks out there.”

In the North East, public health chiefs warned the new strain was “very likely” to have reached the region already.

They said: “While there is no clear evidence that the new strain is yet spreading in the North East as it is in Kent and the South East, it is very likely already to be present.”

There is expected to be a North East gold command meeting on Thursday though regional leaders do not believe that case rates are high enough to be put into Tier 4.

Chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance warned yesterday that the variant was now “everywhere” across the country.

He suggested that tougher lockdown measures may be needed for a third time nationwide after Christmas.