Families in North Staffordshire have suffered a ‘bitter blow’ after being told their area is to be hit with the harshest coronavirus restrictions.
Staffordshire County Council says it is a ‘big disappointment’ that the area will be escalated to the Covid-19 Very High Alert Level when the current national lockdown restrictions end on December 2.
Latest figures show Staffordshire has a coronavirus infection rate of 317.1 cases per 100,000 people. That is against the West Midlands rate of 282.4 and the England rate of 201.3.
And the infection rate in Newcastle borough is currently 406.4 cases per 100,000 people – one of the highest in the country.
Council leader Alan White said: “We have worked hard to bring cases down and the move to the Very High Alert Level is a big disappointment.
“We understand that the decision is based on a number of factors and not just case rates, and our priority now is to get some of the restrictions lifted as quickly as possible.
“We have shown in the last few weeks that we can work together and bring cases down, and the challenge now is to maintain this when the current national lockdown restrictions end next week.
“This is going to take a collective effort and some personal sacrifice, but sticking to the Very High Tier rules is our best chance of getting back to a lower tier, allowing more businesses to reopen and getting back more of the freedoms we once took for granted.”
Staffordshire is one of 66 local authorities chosen to carry out lateral flow tests which give the results in less than half-an-hour.
Dr Richard Harling, director of health and care, said: “Identifying more people who have the virus so they can self-isolate, will help us reduce the spread of infection this winter. So, if you have any symptoms, or are asked to get tested even though you have no symptoms, it is hugely important that you do so.
“We all need to also remember the basics of washing our hands regularly, wearing a face covering and keeping our distance. These are really simple steps, which together can make the biggest difference.”
The new rules for Tier 3
Social contact: You cannot meet anyone socially, unless they are from your household or support bubble, either indoors or in outdoor spaces like private gardens, beer gardens, hospitality or ticketed venues.. However, rule of six limits still apply in outdoor open spaces, such as a park, forest, or beach.
Bubbles: Two households can form a ‘support bubble’ if one of them only has one adult; or a ‘childcare bubble’ if one of them has a child under 13. There’s also now a new exemption which allows a multi-adult household to form a support bubble no matter what, if that household has a child under one, or a child with care needs under five. If you’re in a bubble, you can behave as though you’re all in one household.
Shielding: ‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who shielded in Spring can return to school and work. There will be specific guidance for each tier.
Sex: Indoor recreational gatherings are banned unless you live together or are in the same bubble. The same applies to outdoor spaces like gardens or beer gardens. Gatherings are still technically allowed in parks, but you’re supposed to socially distance. And, er, there’s a little thing called public indecency law.
Pubs and restaurants: Hospitality venues must shut and can only remain open as “click and collect” or takeaway services. This includes hotels. Drive-throughs can stay open.
Schools, universities and childcare: These remain open in all circumstances, but universities can do more online learning.
Travel and holidays: You should limit any journeys made outside your local Tier 3 area – except for work and school run journeys. This is guidance, rather than the law. People are advised against overnight stays outside the area or having visitors to stay from elsewhere. This means no holidays.
Work: The advice is to work from home if you can.
Weddings and funerals: 15 guests can attend marriage ceremonies but receptions are banned. Funerals can have up to 30 mourners, with only 15 people allowed at the wake.
Shops: All retail – including non-essential shops – can stay open.
Gyms, pools, hairdressers, and ‘personal care’ (e.g. nail salons): These can stay open.
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Cinemas, bingo, bowling, soft play and other indoor entertainment: These must shut in Tier 3.
Sports: Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place outdoors, but not indoors unless it’s just one household or bubble.
Spectator sports: Not allowed in Tier 3, indoors or outdoors.
Mass events, theatres, gigs and conferences: Not allowed.
Religious services: Can go ahead as long as the sub-group you’re in the venue with is consistent with social gathering rules for your tier.
Driving lessons and tests: Can go ahead.