The areas at risk of moving to stricter Covid tier next week – as infections rise in 62 local authorities

COVID cases are on the rise in 62 local authorities in England just days before the revision of the tier system.

Almost every place seeing worsening outbreaks are in the south, while the majority of those under the toughest restrictions in the north have shown an impressive turnaround.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Ministers look at where infections are increasing the most, along with data on hospital patients and cases in the over 60s, to decide which areas need tougher restrictions.

It means Bracknell Forest, Central Bedfordshire and Southend-on-Sea could be under the microscope.

Cases rose by at least 50 per cent in each of those authorities in the week to December 6, Public Health England (PHE) data shows.

They currently fall under Tier 2 restrictions, which still allows for people to meet friends outdoors in groups of six, such as in pub gardens.

A third of places with worsening outbreaks are in London, feared to be hurtling towards Tier 3 to control the spread of the virus in the capital.

London MPs are in urgent talks with health ministers to discuss the next best step for the capital, with the toughest restrictions predicted to cause 150,000 job losses.

London has the worst infection rate of all nine regions in the UK – almost 200 cases per 100,0000 people.

At this evening's Downing Street Briefing, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted he was particularly concerned about the number of case in London, Kent and Essex. 

The fastest rise by far is among secondary school age children, while the rate among adults is broadly flat. 

However, Mr Hancock would not pre-empt whether London would be bumped into the highest alert on December 16, the first review of the tiered system.

The tables have turned as London, the South East and East of England are seeing rising cases, while the North West, Yorkshire and Midlands are winning against the virus.

It suggests the Tier 3 restrictions in those parts of the country, from December 2, have continued to work in suppressing the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, tonight praised the "remarkable" work that has been done in the Midlands and North.

Where are cases growing the most?

The data comes from PHE's Covid-19 and flu surveillance report, published every Thursday.

For each area, cases are given per 100,000 people which can be compared with previous weeks.

But the data is only preliminary and may change slightly over time.

The early data shows 62 areas of England saw a rise in infection rates in the week to December 6, even if if was just by a small percentage.

The largest jump in cases was recorded in Bracknell Forest, Berkshire, south England. Cases went up by 70 per cent, from97 cases per 100,000 to 166.

For comparison, it's infection rate is still several times lower than Medway, at the top with 576 new cases per 100,000.

Sixteen places in England saw new case rates jump up by more than a third, compared to only one the week prior (to November 29).

These were Bracknell Forest, Milton Keynes, Greenwich, Bath and North East Somerset, Essex, Havering, Thurrock, East Sussex, Wokingham, Harrow, Waltham Forest, Haringey, Enfield, Southend-on-Sea, Hackney and City of London and Central Bedfordshire.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, the coronavirus epidemic continues to improve in the Isle of Wight, where cases dropped by 45 per cent.

The island's infection rate is just 16 cases per 100,000. It is the only place in Tier 1, alongside Cornwall and Isle of Scilly, which also saw a 23 per cent reduction.

After Medway, Havering in London has the second highest case rate in all of England, at 389 per 100,000.

Of the 10 current Covid "hotspots", six are in London.

The North-South split

Of the 62 local authorities with a rise in cases, 52 were in the south or west of England.

Three places – Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – were in the East of England, with Sunderland in the North East.

Two authorities were each in Yorkshire (Middlesborough and Doncaster), the Midlands (Rutland and Leicestershire) and the North West (Cumbria and Bury).

Where did cases rise the most?

The data is shown as name of authority, cases per 100,000 in the week to December 6, and percentage change from the week prior

Bracknell Forest: 165.65, 70.6 per cent
Central Bedfordshire: 119.52, 51.31 per cent
Hackney and City of London: 195.98, 51.2 per cent
Southend-on-Sea: 204.78, 50.61 per cent
Enfield: 243.56, 48.90 per cent
Haringey: 208.82, 48.02 per cent
Waltham Forest: 313.74, 47.79 per cent
Harrow: 216.59, 46.63 per cent
Wokingham: 142.59, 42.69 per cent
East Sussex: 122.21, 37.02 per cent
Thurrock: 268.44, 36.05 per cent
Havering: 389.13, 34.85 per cent
Essex: 195.14, 34.29 per cent
Bath and North East Somerset: 106.58, 33.76 per cent
Greenwich: 197.96, 33.18 per cent
Milton Keynes: 191.13, 33.08 per cent
Kingston upon Thames: 224.78, 31.68 per cent
Bromley: 198.29, 31.01 per cent
Southwark: 132.36, 30.65 per cent
Sutton: 176.88, 30.36 per cent

It means practically the whole of the north of England has continued on a downward slope of cases.

But sadly, the millions living there will be subject to at least another week of Tier 3 restrictions, after being put under the "highest alert level" on December 2.

At the time, ministers viewed the coronavirus outbreak in those areas as too serious to avoid Tier 3.

But this could be reversed on December 16, when the first revision of the tiered system takes place, in light of positive data.

The majority of the South and South West are in currently in Tier 2, other than Kent, Bristol and Somerset.

But the data suggests that could soon change.

London heading for Tier 3

The 62 places with a jump in cases includes 23 of London's 32 boroughs, amid fears the capital cannot avoid tougher restrictions.

The biggest rises (more than a third) were seen in Hackney and City of London, Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Harrow, Havering and Greenwich.

Cases also jumped by five to 31 per cent in Kingston upon Thames, Bromley, Southwark, Sutton, Croydon, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea, Barking and Dagenham, Lewisham, Newham, Wandsworth and Hillingdon.

Richmond upon Thames, Camden and Westminster all reported less than a five per cent rise week-on-week.

It comes as MPs from the capital have urgent crunch talks with health ministers this afternoon amid concern for spiralling cases, ITV's political correspondent Shehab Khan reported on Twitter.

How would the rules change if London goes into Tier 3?

If London is moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3, the main difference in restrictions is related to social gatherings, which will come as huge blow with just nine days before Christmas day.

In Tier 2, people can meet in groups of six outside – including places such as public spaces, private gardens and outdoor areas of pubs or restaurants.

Hospitality venues can also stay open as long as they serve a “substantial meal” with all sales of alcohol.

But in Tier 3, all hospitality venues would have to close.

People in Tier 3 must not meet with people from different households, unless they have a support bubble.

There are some limited exceptions to this – meaning groups of up to six people could meet in some outdoor public places such as parks, beaches, public gardens and playgrounds.

Shops, gyms and hairdressers can remain open in Tier 3.

The harshest coronavirus restrictions would be “catastrophic” for London, mayor Sadiq Khan said as he pleaded with people to abide by the rules.

Mr Khan told the PA news agency: “I think it’s really important we do all we can to avoid the virus spreading, to avoid going into Tier 3.”

Under England’s toughest level of restrictions pubs and restaurants would only be able to offer takeaway services and households would be banned from mixing except in certain outdoor spaces such as parks.

People would also be urged to avoid travelling outside the area and fans would again be banned from sporting events.

Mr Khan said: “Tier 3 would be catastrophic to our hospitality sector – pubs, bars, restaurants would be seriously affected, and our cultural venues.

“Londoners have made huge sacrifices over the last few weeks and months.

“It’s really important, leading up to Christmas where the rules will be relaxed even more, we do all we can to keep ourselves safe, our families safe but also don’t allow the NHS to be overwhelmed in January.”

Data from PA analysis reveals twelve of London’s 32 boroughs have higher infection rates than Birmingham, which is under Tier 3.

More than half of London (19 boroughs) diagnosed more cases than Manchester (169.8 per 100,000) in the week to December 5.

Local health chiefs and officials in Manchester have begged to be released from tough restrictions that have been in place since summer because they are seeing cases several times lower.

Nearly all London boroughs (28) have a higher case rate than Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Professor Spector, the lead scientist tracking the virus using the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, said London should not be put in Tier 3.

Speaking at a virtual Royal Society of Medicine briefing today, he said the North, East and South West of England were "doing really well".

"But London, the decrease has stopped and is either flat or slightly increasing," he said.

"Most cases are in the north of London at the moment. But it would be a big mistake if London goes into Tier 3.

"I think everybody should be coming down a tier and staying somewhere between Tier 1 and 2 until April, before we see the vaccine taking effect.

"This on-off business is a total disaster and we should absolutely avoid it."

However, Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, warned action must be taken for the capital quickly.

He told The Telegraph on December 9: "[The government] needs to decide in the next 48 hours whether to move London into tier 3 otherwise they really risk a terrible situation for London, with deaths going up during the Christmas period.”

He also warned: “They might have to go to complete lockdown.”

Source: Read Full Article