WARWICKSHIRE will remain in Tier 3 the most severe ‘very high’ covid alert level, the Heath Secretary has announced.
Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that coronavirus cases were rising once more.
He said: “No one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary,” adding that where they are necessary they will be put in place to help ease pressure on the NHS.
“As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control.
“Yesterday (Wednesday December 16), 25,161 cases were reported and there are 18,038 people in hospital with coronavirus in the UK. We must keep suppressing this virus.
“And this isn’t just a matter for government or for this House, it is a matter for every single person and these are always the most difficult months for people’s health and for the NHS.
“Especially with the vaccine already here, we must be cautious as we accelerate the vaccine deployment as per the winter plan.
“We’ve come so far, we mustn’t blow it now.”
The initial Tier 3 allocation following the second national lockdown sparked anger among leaders and businesses in South Warwickshire, where cases were comparatively lower than surrounding areas.
District council leaders in Warwick and Stratford argued the area should have been considered separately from North Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull which the region had been grouped with.
But the latest figures show cases in Warwick are now the highest in the county. Numbers rose to 181 per 100,000 residents in the week of December 6 to 12, up by 82 from the previous week.
In Rugby, the latest figures show 176 cases per 100,000, up by 77 and in Stratford, cases have risen to 101, up by 65 – although still below the 165 average.
Nuneaton and Bedworth is the only place to reduce, dropping by 31 to 159 cases in 100,000.
Stratford District Council leader Tony Jefferson, who launched a legal challenge after the initial Tier 3 announcement, described the decision as ‘frustrating’.
He said: “This is bitterly disappointing news that Stratford-on-Avon district remains in the highest tier restrictions. Especially as we have all worked really hard together to keep the level of infection rates down locally, compared to the rest of Warwickshire. I would like to thank everyone for doing their bit and sticking to the rules and hope that we do get to see the benefit of this in the future.
“As I said previously, when we embarked on our legal challenge to the original tier announcement following the second lockdown, the district council has been supportive of all of the measures that the Government has put in place throughout the pandemic and shared the common objective of keeping our residents safe. But the frustration against this decision still remains, despite being assured of being reviewed at a lower level.
“Nevertheless, it is important to remember that being in the Very High Alert category is not just about infections rate and falling cases, it’s more complex than that. We have to look at the rates in all age groups, particularly older people who are more vulnerable to the virus; and we have to take into consideration the pressure on our local hospitals and NHS services.
“We will continue to work with residents, businesses and communities and with the Government to ensure that the maximum support is made available to them. We know our hospitality businesses across the district will all be affected and this will have a devastating impact on our future economic recovery. However, it has to be said that hospitality businesses also need time to prepare to enable them to open safely and for them the worst possible position is continued uncertainty.
“What has been very noticeable in the responses I have had to our decision to challenge the Government is the level of concern people have for our hospitality industry. This is in the context of Stratford-on-Avon district being the 4th hardest hit local government area in the country and the worst hit in the West Midlands.
“The only good news is that the Government has now accepted the principle that lower tier local authorities can be considered separately from upper tier authorities. So, if rates diverge in future Stratford-on-Avon district can be considered separately from Warwickshire. This may be very significant in the new year when I hope all our metrics show reductions and we can then escape Tier 3.
“I would ask everyone to continue to follow the guidelines and help us to get out of Tier 3.”
Across the country, areas in the east and south of England have been moved into Tier 3, with restrictions in Bristol and North Somerset reduced to Tier 2, and Herefordshire joining Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight in Tier 1.