Why is West Berkshire entering tier 3?
Clearly whilst I am disappointed that West Berkshire is entering Tier 3 following the Governments review of local tiers, I want to be unambiguous in saying that at this point in time it is the right decision.
The following data was considered against the Government’s five criteria for the tier system:
- Case Detection Rates in all Age Groups: Latest figures show a case rate of 218.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is the highest it has ever been and has more than tripled since 1st December. Across the South East as a whole cases have climbed by over 46% in the last week alone.
- Case Detection Rates in the over-60s: Of particular concern is the increase in the number of cases in those over 60. Since the start of December, the case rate for that cohort has increased by a factor of over 4.5. This group is the more likely to have to be hospitalised and are vulnerable to the worst effects of coronavirus. These points are shown
- The rate at which cases are rising or falling: As outlined above, the case rate is rising substantially. According to the latest local statistics, the 7-day percentage increase in the case rate for West Berkshire stands at 204%. This is by far the highest in Berkshire and one of the highest in the Thames Valley.
- Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken: The positivity rate for tests conducted in the county is 8.6%. This is the highest it has been since April and only fractionally below the regional average and above national averages. It continues to climb by approximately 0.5% each day. This means that, whilst more tests are being conducted, the proportion of those tests confirming a positive case is increasing, clearly indicating an increasing prevalence and growth rate of coronavirus in our community.
- Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy: Since March, a primary focus of policy has been to preserve NHS primary and secondary healthcare capacity. Daily admissions both in the Royal Berkshire Hospital and across the South East have continued to climb. In the last 7 days hospital admissions across the South East have risen by over a third, and 18,000 people are currently in hospital nationally. Latest projections show that, without further restrictions, hospitals still run the risk of being overrun.
What does tier 3 mean for us?
- Support bubbles and childcare bubbles remain unaffected.
- Indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants must close, but they can operate a takeaway service.
- You can only socialise indoors with those in your household and are in a support bubble with.
- You can meet up to 6 people (including children of any age) in a public space (such as a park or playground), but not in a private outdoor space, such as a garden.
- Support groups of up to 15 people can continue to meet, but not in private homes. This includes parent and toddler groups.
- Funerals can still occur with up to 30 people and events such as wakes can continue with up to 15 people.
- Weddings and similar ceremonies may still happen, but receptions are not permitted.
- You can move home or undertake activities which facilitate this.
Please find detailed information and guidance here.
Areas in tier 3 are also able to access mass testing of residents, even if they are not symptomatic. The recent pilot in Liverpool was highly successful and contributed to a significant reduction in cases. When rolled-out, I am confident this will really benefit West Berkshire.
Support for businesses:
As well as being able to access the furlough Job Retention Scheme, those businesses legally required to close under tier 3 can claim additional restrictions grants of up to £3,000 per 28-day period. These businesses are principally in the hospitality sector and include pubs, restaurants and hotels. Please contact my office should you need further assistance, details of which can be found here.
Businesses continue to be eligible for the discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant, the details for which can be found here.
Support for individuals:
West Berkshire Council will be sending out leaflets about the support available to residents over the winter. They will also be launching their Winter Hardship Fund utilising central government funding to support individuals and families in need, with applications open from December 1st.
This scheme will provide financial support for people and families in need, from helping to meet the costs of food and utility bills and the provision of Meal Vouchers for 5 to 16 year olds currently eligible for free school meals in terms time, as well as children who are not in receipt of vouchers but schools judge to be vulnerable.
People must apply for additional support and I encourage anyone in need this winter to do so. Applications are not means tested and judged on a case-by-case basis. Application forms can be found on the website here, and you can contact the Community Support Hub on either 01635 503579 or firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and support in applications from 1st December.