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Volume 688: debated on Thursday 4 February 2021

On 5 January 2021, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (All Tier Regulations) were amended. These amendments instructed people across England to stay at home and only to leave where they have a legally permitted reasonable excuse, as well as requiring the closure of many businesses and venues.

We are getting the virus under control, however the numbers of covid-19 cases, hospital and ICU admissions, and deaths remain extremely high nationally. As a result, our hospitals are still under significant pressure from covid-19.

As of 1 February, the weekly case rate in England has decreased to 294 per 100,000 for all ages, compared to a rate of 421 the week before and 233 per 100,000 in people aged 60 and over, in comparison to 332 per 100,000. There are seven local authorities with case rates greater than 500 per 100,000. Overall positivity for England is 11.9%, which is a 1.8% decrease over the last seven days.

Case rates for all ages have decreased but remain high or very high across all regions. Case rates also remain very high in the west midlands (350 per 100,000), the east of England (308 per 100,000) and the north-west (320 per 100,000). The lowest case rates are in the south-west (200 per 100,000)—a 30% decrease from last week. The highest positivity is in London (22%) and lowest in the south-west (6.9%).

The measures the Government have put in place are bringing down the number of cases/ However, these figures are significantly higher in comparison to early December, and there still remains considerable pressure on NHS systems nationwide as although hospitalisations are now decreasing, bed occupancy is still high and remains ~50% above the peak of the first wave. General and acute bed occupancy for covid-19 across England has decreased by 4,023 to 26,216 from 30,239 last week. Mechanical ventilation bed occupancy for covid-19 across England has similarly decreased to 3,366 from 3,736 in the previous week. Deaths within 28 days of a positive test remain high: there have been 7,898 covid-19 related deaths in England from 18 January to 24 January 2021.

In line with our commitments, I have kept the measures in place for the national lockdown under ongoing review. On 2 February I completed a review of the geographical allocations as required by the regulations and have determined that it is necessary for all areas in England to remain in tier 4 in order to tackle the threat posed by the covid-19. Whilst there are early indications that new infections may have started to decline in those areas which have been under stricter measures for the longest, scientific advice and the latest epidemiological data are clear that lifting restrictions now would be too early. We recognise the strain that these restrictions have placed on people across the country, but we must continue to take the necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. The restrictions are kept under continual review and will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.