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Suffolk to move into Tier 4 of Covid-19 restrictions on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces

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Suffolk is set to move into Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced this afternoon.

Mr Hancock, who is MP for West Suffolk, said 'against the backdrop' of rising Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths, it was important to take the decision to move more parts of the country into the highest tier level.

Suffolk, which has been in Tier 2 up until now, will face the toughest level of restrictions, including a stay at home order, from December 26.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: PA
Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: PA

Mr Hancock said the new variant of coronavirus was spreading at a “dangerous rate”.

He said East Anglia in particular had seen a 'significant' number of infections of the new variant of the virus.

Norfolk and the parts of Essex not already in Tier 4 will also be moved into the highest alert level on Boxing Day.

Tier 4
Tier 4

And towns and villages just outside Newmarket which are in Cambridgeshire have also been plunged into Tier 4.

Cllr Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, urged residents to think about what they could do to reduce rates of the virus.

“Moving into Tier 4 will have an effect on people’s lives, but on its own it won’t drive down rates. We need people to do even more to break the chain of infection and stop Covid in its tracks,” he said.

Sussex, Oxfordshire, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton, but with the exception of the New Forest, will also move into Tier 4.

Covid-19 growth rates, published December 23. (PA Graphic)
Covid-19 growth rates, published December 23. (PA Graphic)

The Tier 4 restrictions will mean that:

  • Non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys will be forced to close
  • People should work from home where they can
  • People will be restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space
  • People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, with limited exceptions
  • No overseas travel will be allowed, with limited exceptions
  • Communal worship can continue

Officials in Suffolk said the pace of growth in the infection rate was a 'major concern' across Suffolk, with a 96 per cent increase in cases in a week.

Suffolk's current rate is 188 per 100,000 people, compared to 67 per 100,000 two weeks ago.

In the last week, Mid Suffolk cases have increased by 192 per cent, West Suffolk by 176 per cent and Babergh by 166 per cent.

As of December 23, there were 239 Covid-19 patients in Suffolk hospital beds.

Councillor Matthew Hicks, the leader of Suffolk County Council and chair of Suffolk’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, said: “While it is not the news any of us wanted to hear, it comes as no surprise that Suffolk finds itself in Tier 4 given the rates of infection in recent days.

Matthew Hicks
Matthew Hicks

“The figures speak for themselves. This rise in cases, exacerbated by a more infectious variant, means increased pressure on the National Health Service and its partners, who are in the front line in the fight against Covid-19.

“We now must use this move into Tier 4 status as a spring-board from which to re-double our efforts in working together to bring rates down. This is our opportunity to halt the spread of the virus and enable us to move back into Tier 2.”

Cllr Hicks said the potentially more infectious new variant of Covid-19 meant it was even more important people followed the advice on maintaining social distancing, along with regular washing of hands and wearing of face masks.

Chris Bally, Deputy Chair of the Suffolk Resilience Forum and Deputy Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council, said: “I would urge everyone to take these new restrictions very seriously.

“Whilst we are all disappointed in this announcement, we have shown tremendous fortitude and collective strength throughout this pandemic to do what is right, and follow the guidance so we can protect the most vulnerable and ultimately move beyond this.

“We know that with a vaccine already being rolled out across the country and with other vaccines are on the way so there is light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime, we must follow the Tier 4 restrictions to ensure we move to the lower tiers in the shortest time possible.”

Other parts of the country to face stricter restrictions from Boxing Day include Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire as well as Cheshire and Warrington which will all be escalated to Tier 3.

Meanwhile, Cornwall and Herefordshire move from Tier 1 to Tier 2.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk