Council leader Abi Brown is urging the Government to pull Stoke-on-Trent out of the harshest coronavirus restrictions before Christmas.
The leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council is writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to press for the Tier 3 ruling to be reviewed on December 16. That is the earliest possible date for a review.
It comes as the city’s coronavirus infection rate has now dropped to 415 cases per 100,000 people.
But the perilous state of the Royal Stoke University Hospital and the city’s high positivity rate – 11 per cent – were also key factors in the Potteries being dumped in Tier 3.
It is a bitter blow for the city’s hospitality industry.
Mrs Brown said: “I’m understandably disappointed, particularly so for residents who have played their part in driving down rates and even more so for those who work in the hospitality and leisure sector in the city.
“However, as I hear more about the decision-making process the Government has used to base its decisions on and as we see how many others up and down the country are being placed into tier three, sadly there was an inevitability to this.
“We have come such a long way during the lockdown in reducing the infection rate in the city, through people taking responsible steps to stop the spread of this disease. Our case rate is down by 26.7 per cent on the past seven days. But we all have to accept that we are coming down from a very high position and our case numbers still remain high.
“We need to sustain this downward trend before we see the impact on the criteria which the Government has used to make this decision.
“At the same time, we know there continues to be extreme pressure on the Royal Stoke and this is one of the critical determining factors the Government has taken into account when taking its decisions.
“I am writing to Matt Hancock to urge him to consider us for review on December 16. With our work on lateral flow rapid testing and our strengthened approach to tackling the virus through our own track and trace team as well as our continued focus on compliance and enforcement, I want to do all we possibly can to get the city out of tier three at the earliest possible opportunity.
“We have the highest testing rate in the West Midlands, we have de-escalated previously, not once but twice, and are one of the only areas to do so. We know that the majority of our residents are doing the right thing so asking for a review on December 16 is something we can all work towards.
“My message to residents and businesses is that we need to keep going. Let’s work together to follow the guidance and see what is achievable. The people of Stoke-on-Trent are second to none and I know they will pull out all the stops for their city. The tier three restrictions are in place to help us all beat this disease, and we must do this together.”
The latest restrictions will come into force once the national lockdown ends on December 2. They are likely to impact on council services.
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “I know this news is frustrating for so many people in our city who have followed all the national guidance. But we all must understand that we are not where we need to be yet. We must all continue to follow the rules. The steps that everyone in the city are taking is working.
“We are still seeing huge pressures on our local health services, so although the infection rate is beginning to come down, it is not happening quickly enough. By following the guidance, no matter how exhausted we are, it is making a difference. ‘Hands, face and space’ are the ways that we will get through this.”
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.
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.