Tracks of our tiers

A timeline visualisation showing the relationship between covid case rates and local restriction tiers in the lead up to the January 2021 lockdown.

On the 2nd December after the end of the second national lockdown English regions were placed into three Tiers depending on how badly each area was affected by Covid 19.

This visualisation explores how the cases rates changed between the second lockdown ending and the third lockdown begining. Patterns emerge which appear to show how being placed in a lower tier at the start of this period resulted in a case rates rising faster than in regions under striceter conditions.

It's worth noting that the government used several criteria, not just case rates to decide the tiers.

2nd Dec 2020

Tier update

  • Lockdown ends:

    England's second lockdown ends at 12.01am, and the second tier system is adopted.

3rd Dec 2020

  • With a 7 day rolling average of 519 cases per 100k people, Medway has the highest case rate in England.

4th Dec 2020

  • Within days it is clear that case rates in Tier Two areas are rising faster than in Tier Three areas.

5th Dec 2020

6th Dec 2020

  • While case rates are starting to fall in Tier 3 areas, cases are continuing to rise in Tier 2 areas.

7th Dec 2020

  • Meanwhile most Tier 2 areas are beginning to rise quickly

8th Dec 2020

9th Dec 2020

  • Cases continue to rise accross all Tier Two areas.

10th Dec 2020

  • Meanwhile, the majority of areas in Tier Three see their case rates decrease or stay the same.

11th Dec 2020

12th Dec 2020

13th Dec 2020

  • The majority of Tier Two areas now have a higher case rate than the median Tier Three case rate.

14th Dec 2020

15th Dec 2020

16th Dec 2020

  • Tiers updated:

    London, and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, are placed into Tier Three. All of these areas started this period in Tier Two and these regions now make up the majority of the worst affected areas in the country.

17th Dec 2020

  • Thirty four of the thirty six areas with the highest case rates were initially placed into Tier Two.

18th Dec 2020

19th Dec 2020

  • Tiers updated:

    Just three days after the last tier changes several more south eastern areas move from Tier Two into Tier Three, while two areas which began in Tier Three are able to be moved to Tier Two.

20th Dec 2020

  • Tiers updated:

    Areas within London, the South East and the East of England go into new stricter Tier Four restrictions.

21st Dec 2020

  • All but two of the areas now in Tier Four were initially placed into the more lax Tier Two restrictions when lockdown ended.

22nd Dec 2020

  • Conversely, all but two of the areas which were initially placed in Tier Three (the highest when lockdown ended) have managed to remain in Tier Three or lower.

23rd Dec 2020

24th Dec 2020

  • One of the few areas in Tier Four to begin trending downwards is Medway, which was never placed into the more lax Tier Two restrictions.

25th Dec 2020

26th Dec 2020

  • Several more areas are moved into higher tiers after rules are briefly relaxed for Christmas Day.

27th Dec 2020

28th Dec 2020

29th Dec 2020

  • By the 29th December cases are beginnng to rise rapidly accross all regions.

30th Dec 2020

31st Dec 2020

  • An additional 43 areas are moved into Tier Four restrictions, meanaing a total of 44 million people in England are now living under the toughest measures

1st Jan 2021

2nd Jan 2021

  • Cases continue to rise rapidly with the new Covid variant and the relaxing of restrictions at Christmas appearing to pay a part.

3rd Jan 2021

4th Jan 2021

  • The Prime Minister announces that a new lockdown will begin at Midnight.

5th Jan 2021

  • A third lockdown begins for all regions.


The case rate and tier data was pulled directly from the UK Government coronavirus dashboard.

The chart design was inspired by the Carl Baker's original design and John Burn-Murdoch's later iterations.

Thanks to Elaine Cowen for lending her analytical mind and extracting some key insights from the data.