Northamptonshire remains in Tier Two under Covid plan ... at least for now

Health Secretary confirms no change — but three more neighbouring areas are now 'very high risk'
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Northamptonshire will remain in Tier Two under the Government's Covid Winter Plan ... for now, at least.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the county risk level can continue as 'high risk' — but experts will carry out a further review in another two weeks' time.

But neighbouring areas of Peterborough, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire WILL be put into the 'very high risk' areas with Tier Three restrictions.

The Government has said decisions on tier levels are based on a number of factors including case detection rates in all age groups and, in particular, among the over 60s.

How quickly case rates are rising or falling will also be taken into account, as will local pressure on the NHS, including current and projected capacity.

Northamptonshire was put into tier two when the Government carved up the country two weeks ago with a promise the tiers would be reviewed by December 16.

Since then, the number of positive tests daily has risen significantly in Northampton — but not in other parts of the county.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made his announcement in the Commons todayHealth Secretary Matt Hancock made his announcement in the Commons today
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made his announcement in the Commons today

Hospital admissions and coronavirus deaths have also soared to levels approaching peaks seen during the pandemic's first wave in April.

Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn warned last week: “I have no prior knowledge of tiers at this stage, but just look at those numbers.

“We almost have to be ready to expect to be in Tier Three as there is a very strong possibility.

“Certainly for us in Northampton, with our trend on the graph having kicked up so dramatically, we really have to be ready for it and that would be a rotten, rotten shame.

Here's how the number of positive Covid-19 tests has changed across Northamptonshire since the lockdown was announcedHere's how the number of positive Covid-19 tests has changed across Northamptonshire since the lockdown was announced
Here's how the number of positive Covid-19 tests has changed across Northamptonshire since the lockdown was announced

“Everything we do everyday, every single resident, every single business, we have got to be incredibly careful to make sure we are at least seen to be doing everything.

“We know it’s not a cold, hard numbers related decision and we know that hospital occupancy and many other factors play a part.

“We also hope that where we are seen to be doing everything we possibly can to keep on top of the virus by the precautions that people are taking, when Government people come to visit our town they observe this and there is some belief that perhaps that has an influence too.

“We know we are in trouble where the numbers are going and we have just got to be pressing on with all the precautions and be as careful as we possibly can.”

Covid cases among the over-60s and in hospital have risen over the last monthCovid cases among the over-60s and in hospital have risen over the last month
Covid cases among the over-60s and in hospital have risen over the last month

A second review is now expected on December 23 — the day the Government's Christmas 'window' opens — with changes likely to come into effect on December 28.

From December 23 to December 27, people can form one Christmas bubble made up of people from no more than three households although the PM yesterday warned this is a maximum number and not a target and advised "a smaller Christmas and a shorter Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas."

Bubbles will be able to spend time together in private homes, places of worship, or outdoors.

But, those forming a Christmas bubble can not meet socially with friends and family from outside that bubble in homes or garden.

Current Tier Two restrictions will continue to apply everywhere else — so pubs can only serve drinks to those eating substantial meals.

If Northamptonshire is put into Tier Three, it would likely mean no households mixing with pubs and restaurants being forced to close or operate as takeaways only on New Year's Eve.

Northants' Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman, admitted: "Our NHS services are already completely overloaded, we're still seeing significant increases in cases and, sadly, deaths.

"No specific thresholds for moving between tiers have been set. But if you apply some common sense, look at the rates other areas were touching on when they went into Tier Three and Northampton in particular is pretty much in that space now.

"If it doesn't happen this week, then I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't happen pretty soon after Christmas.

“As Covid-19 related hospital admissions continue to rise, I’m continuing to ask all residents to protect themselves and the vulnerable older population of 60-plus who tend to be at greater risk of more severe disease.

“At the moment I am still deeply concerned about the rising trend of cases as we head into more relaxed restrictions over the festive period.

“The last thing anyone wants to give the ones they love for Christmas is Covid-19 so we all need to be extra cautious."