Suffolk to be in Tier Two in local lockdown system
- Credit: Archant
The entire East of England has been put in Tier Two when the lockdown ends next week – meaning pubs cannot serve alcohol without a substantial meal.
The news comes as a blow to hospitality businesses in Suffolk where there are relatively low levels of Covid infection - but the government's decision to stick with large regions put this area alongside Luton and towns near the M25 which have much higher infection levels.
The website revealing which tier local areas were in crashed as soon as it was launched by the government - but it soon emerged the whole region was in the same tier.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that: “The disease is no respecter of borough boundaries” and regions had to be “sensible and large enough”.
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Despite Suffolk witnessing lower levels of infection than elsewhere in the region and country, the current infection rate of 85 cases per 100,000 people is more than double what it was when Suffolk entered tier one on October 14, with 35 cases per 100,000.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, said: "I fully understand that many people will be disappointed Suffolk has not emerged from the national restrictions in a lower tier, or indeed no tier at all. I am too.
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"Suffolk has done well at keeping our infection rates lower than many other areas in the country and for that I would like to thank people for what they have done.
"The facts facing us today are clear, however. With current infection rates and pressure being put on health services, we need to do more of what we have been doing. We need to stick with it.
"We know what we need to do to get Suffolk back on track. Every one of us needs to keep following the rules to stop the spread of Covid-19.
"We need to ensure our hospitals can continue to care for people who urgently need help, including those without Covid.
"We need to be responsible today for a better tomorrow."
The tier means Suffolk residents will not be allowed to meet people from other households or support bubbles indoors, visit pubs and bars not serving food, stay overnight with people from another household or support bubble or exercise indoors with people from another household or support bubble if there is any interaction between them.
People are also encouraged to work from home and limit journeys where possible.
Rachel Kearton, Suffolk Police's deputy chief constable and chair of the group of public sector organisations leading the fight against Covid in the county, said: "This week's news about the success of Covid vaccine trials shows us clearly that there is light at the end of this tunnel, but there is still some way to go.
"Suffolk has been at the forefront of following Government guidance and it is precisely that which has kept infection rates relatively low for so long.
"Now is not the time to give up and deviate from our course.
"Now is precisely the time to keep following the rules and stop the spread of Covid so we can get back to the social freedoms we miss so very much."
Despite the expectation that most of England will continue to face major restrictions, Chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted that people would notice a “tangible” difference from the lockdown.
He told Sky News: “Whichever tier you’re in, I think people will see a tangible change. That said, things are obviously not normal and I can’t pretend that next week things are going to feel like they were before the spring.”
The tiers will be reviewed on December 16 but experts have warned that people must continue to face restrictions ahead of the UK-wide easing of measures over Christmas.
Mr Hancock said: “Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice made by people up and down the country, we are able to move out of national lockdown and into more targeted local, tiered restrictions.
“I know for those of you faced with Tier 3 restrictions this will be a particularly difficult time but I want to reassure you that we’ll be supporting your areas with mass community testing and extra funding. By following the rules together we can get out of these tough measures.”
The Department of Health said decisions on tier levels were based on a number of factors, including case detection rates in all age groups and, in particular, amongst the over 60s.
How quickly case rates are rising or falling and the impact on local NHS services are also taken into account.
The final decisions were made by the Prime Minister at the Covid Operations Committee.
Mr Johnson, whose coronavirus self-isolation period has ended, is expected to hold a press conference later. Areas placed in Tier Three will be offered support from NHS Test and Trace and the armed forces will deliver a six-week rapid community testing programme, making use of rapid lateral flow tests which give results within an hour.