Residents are praised for their resilience and compliance this year as the Government reluctantly announces the escalation of Northamptonshire to Tier 3 of the COVID-19 alert system - starting on Boxing Day.
Today's decision is based on the latest available coronavirus data, the rapid rise in case rates of COVID-19 and is in line with the measures set out in the Government's COVID-19 Winter Plan.
This means that Northamptonshire is officially on 'very high alert' in terms of risk of exposure and transmission of the virus.
With each tier of the three tier alert system comes tighter local restrictions and guidance. The Tier 3 restrictions will start at 00:01h on Saturday 26 December and may affect resident's current Boxing Day plans.
Under the Tier 3 local restrictions:
- Hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha bars), pubs, cafes, restaurants, and social clubs must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. This includes restaurants and bars within hotels or member's clubs. This is the main change between Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions and will have an impact on residents who have booked to eat out.
- You cannot mix with another household indoors. Only meet people outdoors in open public spaces in groups of up to six.
This means no football or any other sporting gatherings or spectators on Boxing Day.
- Reduce your number of journeys and avoid travel outside the area unless needed
- Work from home if possible
For the full guidance see Gov.uk:
Despite the new measures Northamptonshire's Public Health officials have reiterated how proud they are of the way residents in the county have behaved and managed to stay in Tier 2 while surrounding areas were escalated far earlier. Residents are being thanked for their adherence to the guidelines and community collaboration since the start of the pandemic and are being urged to continue to adhere to the rules and practise COVID-secure actions such as hands, face, space.
Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health Northamptonshire said:
"Residents have shown remarkable resilience and compliance in facing the challenge of combating this virus to date but I'm afraid we are now faced with a new challenge. The virus has mutated to be up to 70 per cent more contagious meaning rates are rising at a much more rapid rate in areas around us and this is affecting our ability to maintain lower rates. Continued adherence to the guidelines at this time is therefore absolutely vital.
"I know that this is exceptionally difficult news. I know it will mean festive plans are disrupted and that for businesses affected this will be a very significant blow, especially those in the hospitality sector. I also know that for many of us this will mean changing our plans once again. Residents who have booked to eat out on Boxing Day will now have to celebrate at home. I urge you all to continue to remain calm. All shops will remain open so there is no need for stockpiling or panic buying.
"I can only reassure you that given the data, the continued pressure on our NHS services, and the emergent mutant strain, the Government's action is absolutely essential. We are now in a situation of exponential growth which, if left unchecked, would lead to a rapid escalation in cases and hospitalisations that could overwhelm our NHS services over the festive period and into the New Year.
"Whilst no-one wants to see Northamptonshire under tighter restrictions, the stark reality of the situation means we have no choice. I know we can beat the virus by doing the right thing over the coming weeks - we have done it before we will do it again."
The next review point for the current tier allocations is due to take place on 30 December 2020.
Decisions on tiers are made by ministers based on public health recommendations informed by the following factors:
- case detection rate (in all age groups and, in particular, among the over 60s)
- how quickly case rates are rising or falling
- positivity in the general population
- pressure on the NHS – including current and projected (3 to 4 weeks out) NHS capacity – including admissions, general/acute/ICU bed occupancy, staff absences local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreak
- If these indicators are not improving, an area may be moved up a tier and if the trajectory improves, the area may move to a lower tier. A 'watch list' will be published every Thursday detailing the latest data at a regional level, providing the rationale and data behind these decisions.