Review of local restriction tiers: 17 December 2020
This morning the results of the local restriction tiers were announced and South Yorkshire is to remain in Tier 3. I know this is very disappointing for many of us and will continue to put pressure on businesses and families across Penistone and Stocksbridge.
Over recent weeks I have continued to represent constituents’ views to ministers, and last week I wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, asking that South Yorkshire be moved down to Tier 2 as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the current data suggests that it isn’t yet safe to do this, but I’ve been reassured that at the next review, in two weeks' time, a further decision will be made based on the evidence available at that time.
Earlier today, I had an informative video conference with the Health Minister, Helen Whately, and officials from Public Health England to discuss the data behind the decision to keep South Yorkshire in Tier 3.
As set out in the Government’s COVID-19 winter plan, there are 5 main indicators which are used to guide the decision to allocate a given area to a Tier.
- case detection rates in all age groups
- case detection rates in the over 60s
- the rate at which cases are rising or falling
- positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken)
- pressure on the NHS (such as hospitalisations)
Whilst the data shows that there has been a significant decline in cases and hospitalisations across our region over recent weeks, this decline has unfortunately levelled off in the past few days. And whilst COVID admissions, bed occupancy and critical care bed occupancy in our area are not rising, they are above the national averages. So whilst infection rates are much lower than they were, the levels are still relatively high which means there is a risk that the level of infections will become too high again, and so it is too soon to relax the restrictions right now.
Putting all these factors together, relaxing the restrictions now could put all our hard work at risk, and the last thing we want is to give the virus the opportunity to spread again and overwhelm our hospitals.
There will be a further review in two weeks, i.e. on December 30 and there are a number of reasons for us to be optimistic.
We have a vaccine
Firstly, the vaccine is already being rolled out in South Yorkshire, and in the UK nearly 200 000 people have received it already and by the spring, most of our elderly and most vulnerable residents will have been vaccinated.
Community testing is being expanded
Secondly, advances in community testing and the announcement today by the Department for Education that all secondary schools and colleges will receive rapid testing from January means that, even before the vaccine is fully rolled out, we have more tools to help us control the spread of the disease.
Support for business extended
For businesses that have to remain closed, or are struggling over this period, the furlough scheme has been extended and small business grants are available.
I know many of us will be disheartened by today’s announcement but we do have cause for hope, and if we continue to follow the regulation and guidance meaning infections fall further, we have every chance of seeing the restrictions relaxed at the earliest opportunity.
- A written statement from the Health and Social Care Secretary to the House of Commons
- Your questions answered - information about the new testing programme for schools