The government could allow local authorities to have different coronavirus tier rules to others in neighbouring areas, a minister has suggested.
When deciding on the tiers, the government looks at coronavirus cases across all age groups and specifically among the over-60s, who are considered most at risk.
Officials also look at whether infection rates are rising or falling in the area and the positivity rate – meaning the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken.
Pressure on the NHS is also taken into account, including current and projected occupancy.
Now, speaking ahead of a scheduled review point of all tiers, housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said different local authorities could have different tiers to prevent areas with low incidences of coronaviruses being lumped into higher tiers.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We've set out a rigorous set of criteria that we're going to judge each part of the country against, including the number of infections, the progress of the virus in the over-60s and pressure on the NHS.
“They're going to be made on a local authority by local authority basis.
“So those people concerned about one part of a large county or region lumped in with another can be assured this is a detailed process.”
When asked if the government would make a more “localised decision”, where neighbouring areas with high and low coronavirus infection rates are covered by the same Tier 3 regulations, Jenrick replied: “Yes, we’ve committed that this time around we will take a look at each local authority and if there are examples where we can come to different decisions within counties or regions.”
However, Jenrick warned that coronavirus “does not respect local authority boundaries” and “can spread very rapidly even where there appears to be significant divergences”.
Watch: Where are the COVID hotspots ahead of tiers review?
He added: “We've got to make sure we’re taking decisions that reflect the way we’re living our lives... and that's often broader than a district or borough council's boundaries.”
The tier review comes as Greater London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into Tier 3, the highest level of restrictions.
Jenrick spoke as the government faced increasing pressure to scrap the easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas.
The minister said it would be up to people to make a “personal judgement” whether they wanted to meet up with vulnerable family members over the holiday period.
Watch: The COVID dos and don’ts of Christmas this year