Lancaster and Morecambe remain in Tier 3: reasons, reaction and all you need to know
Lancaster and Morecambe will remain under Tier 3 Covid restrictions until at least early in the new year.
The whole of Lancashire is still subject to the toughest rules following a government review of the system announced on Thursday - meaning there will be no change to the regulations that were put in place after the national lockdown ended earlier this month.
Hospitality venues will continue to be restricted to takeaway service only and household mixing in all indoor and most outdoor settings will remain banned.
Data published on Wednesday, as the government was making its decision, showed that Lancashire's rolling seven-day case rate had grown since 26th November, when it was announced that the county would be put into Tier 3 following the England-wide lockdown.
The figure stood at 198.9 per 100,000 people in the week to 13th December, compared to 176.6 three weeks earlier - although the county is only fractionally above the England average of 196.3.
Lancaster was amongst seven of Lancashire’s 14 districts where case rates have risen over the same period, from 123.9 to 137.6.
The over-60s infection rate - one of the government's other key criteria for assessing the tiering arrangements - undermined any case the county as whole had for a shift to Tier 2.
The average rate in that age group across the week to 11th December was 179.3, significantly higher than the England figure of 133.0. However, Lancaster has one of the lowest rates by that measure at 141.3.
Lancaster City Council leader Dr. Erica Lewis said that that the decision to keep the area under Tier 3 controls was "disappointing, but with our infection numbers up and our hospital under pressure, not unexpected".
"The continuation of Tier 3 is a real risk to local jobs and businesses. The government needs to strengthen its economic support package and ensure no one falls through the cracks.
"We all need to do our bit, too - shop local, remember to wash our hands, wear a face mask and make space, and please think carefully about the risks of your Christmas plans," Cllr Lewis added.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons on Thursday that areas should not despair that they cannot escape from the top tier of restrictions.
“The best way to get out of tier 3 is by everybody coming together to comply with the restrictions - and not just to comply with them because they are the law but to take responsibility to ensure that we do not spread the virus, which each one of us can do unwittingly because of its asymptomatic nature.
“We can get areas out of tier 3 and we can get areas out of tier 2 and into tier 1, but we all have to work at it,” Mr. Hancock said.
A majority of Lancashire's leaders last week called upon the government to move into Tier 2 any areas of the county where the epidemiology supported it. However, the county council's director of public health, Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, is understood to have recommended to council chiefs that Tier 3 remain in place across the board for now.
The five-day relaxation of the restrictions over Christmas will still go ahead from 23rd December. However, Dr. Karunanithi has urged caution over the permitted mixing between up to three households.
"The virus will not be taking a break for Christmas," he told the Guardian earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the government has announced that secondary schools will move to remote learning from the start of the new term until 11th January, for all years except those where pupils are due to take exams.
Lancashire's representative on the executive of the National Education Union, Ian Watkinson, told the Guardian earlier this week that there needed to be at least a ten-day period between the end of the Christmas relaxation of the tiering rules and children gathering in class.
However, primary pupils will return as planned on 4th January.
The government also announced earlier this week a programme of mass testing for secondary schools, starting in January.
COVID CASE RATES
Coronavirus cases per 100,000 of the population in the week to 13th Dec (compared to the day Tier 3 decision was made on 26th Nov) - and in the over-60s age band in the week to 11th Dec.
Blackburn with Darwen
233.1 (down from 286.6)
Over-60s - 234.7
159.2 (down from 168.5)
Over-60s - 187.8
318.3 (up from 280.0)
Over-60s - 191.9
204.7 (up from 190.3)
Over-60s - 225.8
120.1 (down from 157.2)
Over-60s - 103.4
206.1 (down from 266.5)
Over-60s - 169.8
137.6 (up from 123.9)
Over-60s - 141.3
257.3 (down from 293.1)
Over-60s - 194.6
215.2 (up from 199.8)
Over 60s - 241.4
231.6(up from 182.3)
Over-60s - 181.8
221.0 (down from 278.4)
Over-60s - 141.4
167.9 (down from 237.4)
Over-60s - 186.3
187.2 (up from 113.7)
125.8 (up from 119.5)
Over-60s - 169.5
Lancashire overall case average (week to 13th Dec) - 198.9
England overall case average (week to 13th Dec) - 196.3
Over-60s Lancashire average (week to 11th Dec) - 179.3
Over-60s England average (week to 11th Dec) - 133.0
A REMINDER OF THE TIER 3 RULES
Tier 3 restrictions mean:
***people must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or some outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with. Everyone who can work from home should do so;
***people can see friends and family they do not live with (or do not have a support bubble with) in some outdoor public places - such as parks or public gardens in a group of up to 6;
***weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions are not allowed, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, 15 people can attend linked commemorative events;
***accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, holiday lets and guest houses must close, other than where very limited exceptions apply;
***hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha bars), pubs, cafes, restaurants, and social clubs must close except for takeaway, delivery, drive-through and click and collect services. Takeaway must cease between 23:00 and 5:00, but delivery, drive-through and click-and-collect may continue during this period. This includes restaurants and bars within hotels or members’ clubs;
***indoor entertainment venues, such as casinos, bowling alleys, and bingo halls must close. Outdoor entertainment venues, such as botanical gardens and heritage sites, may stay open, although indoor elements at these attractions must also close. Cinemas, theatres, and concert venues must close; except for drive-in events; and
***leisure and sports facilities may continue to stay open, but group exercise classes (including fitness and dance) should not go ahead.
Further details can be found on gov.uk.