Devon’s MPs say county should go into Tier 1 after lockdown

MPs from across Devon are united in their relief that England’s second national lockdown won’t be extended – and all calling for the county to be placed into the lowest tier of restrictions.

[Owl is disappointed that there is no quote from from “Marie Antoinette” Selaine Saxby, MP North Devon, who sounded off about local businesses supporting free school meals and no doubt has strong views on tiers] 

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Commons on Monday that the three-tiered regional measures will return from December 2 and the lockdown will end, but he added that each tier will be toughened.

Areas will not find out which tier they are in until Thursday and the allocation of tiers will be dependent on a number of factors, including each area’s case numbers, the reproduction rate – or R number – and the current and projected pressure on the NHS locally.

Tier allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, and the regional approach will last until March, and Devon’s MPs feel that the area should be placed in Tier 1.

New coronavirus cases across the county are dropping, and only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, Suffolk, Dorset, West Berkshire, Cambridgeshire and Central Bedfordshire of upper tier authorities currently have a lower infection rate per 100,000 than Devon’s 106.6.

Devon Coronavirus cases as of November 23

Devon Coronavirus cases as of November 23

At a lower tier level, Teignbridge has the fourth lowest rate of England’s 315 districts, with West Devon, Mid Devon and the South Hams also in the bottom 15, based on the previous seven days’ of figures.

In terms of people who have died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, Devon currently has the lowest rate per 100,000 population of anywhere in England.

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, said that it was hoped that the area would be in Tier One, but that the Government must publish the scientific basis for the restrictions in the various tiers, if it wants to regain public trust and compliance with the rules.

He said: “Of course, the hope must be that Exeter and Devon are in Tier One, but it is essential that the Government publishes a clear set of criteria for each Tier and for moving between them. The last three tier system did not work and the Government refused to implement an earlier circuit breaker, which is what led to the current four week national lockdown.

“The Government must also publish the scientific basis for the restrictions in the various tiers, if it wants to regain public trust and compliance with the rules. It would be awful if, by making the wrong decisions now, the Government has to tighten restrictions again over Christmas and New Year, just when families are looking forward to the chance of getting together.”

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, said: “We should welcome the move from national to local restrictions. We must safely re-open businesses forced to close to help protect jobs and our economy. Devon should be in the lowest tier of restrictions to reflect the hard work and significant sacrifices we’ve made to suppress the virus.

“We must safely re-open businesses forced to close to help protect jobs and our economy. And, as an example, I spoke this week in Parliament about gyms and leisure centres being closed for this period. Can we be certain that closing them to limit coronavirus transmission is worth it on balance? Hundreds of East Devon residents contacted me saying their closure is physically and mentally detrimental to their wellbeing.

“Behind all the charts and graphs, there’s a very real social side to lockdown that no amount of financial supports schemes – however welcome – can replicate. And if we are to consider tighter restrictions again, the government must publish stronger evidence that they protect more lives than they harm.”

Mel Stride, the Conservative MP for Central Devon, said: “Tiering is the right way to go as it will help match the measures taken with the level of threat from the virus. My constituency has been generally highly compliant with lockdown rules and I am hopeful that we might be in Tier One.”

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said that he hoped and wanted the region to be placed in the lower tier of restrictions, and that the vaccine news was light at the end of the tunnel.

He said: “On Thursday, of course I want us to be in the lowest possible tier of restrictions, because it means we are doing well at combating the virus here in the West Country.

“The news today about the Oxford vaccine is more light at the end of the tunnel, increasing the chances that we can get out of coronavirus restrictions sooner. I am glad we are returning, next week, to a local tiered approach, but the virus hasn’t gone away yet and we all need to be vigilant this winter.

“I want our businesses to be open and thriving and for people to have safe working and social environments to enjoy. However, even if we are in a higher tier than before, I am particularly pleased to see that places of worship will be open across all tiers, as will recreational sports, and retail too. This is a welcome change – and I think people can look forward to safer, brighter Christmas, after the tough month we have all endured.”

Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, agreed that the region should be placed in Tier 1 from next week.

He said: “I am in regular contact with all Plymouth and Devon Conservative MPs and we all agree that the South West should be placed in Tier 1 and we are pressing hard for this. The South West for this purpose includes Bristol which still has significant transmission of the virus and accordingly, we are asking for Devon and Cornwall to be treated as a separate sub-region for this purpose, if necessary. We will find out tomorrow or Thursday whether we have been successful.”

Anthony Mangnall, the Conservative MP for Totnes, whose constituency straddles both Devon and Torbay, said that he would be supported the tiered system, provided the measures are based on accurate information and divided in the correct manner, with him pushing for his area to be in Tier One.

He said: “We have a vaccine and the end of the lockdown is in sight, and now it is about making sure that we are in the lowest tier. I do think it is very important that people recognise, including those in Whitehall, the difference between Bristol and the surrounding areas, and the South West around Plymouth, Devon and Torbay, and our numbers are significantly lower here.

“It is very important that when we come to a tiering system, we don’t get lumped in with places like Bristol as it doesn’t equate.

“I have been perfectly clear, I will not vote for another lockdown. I will support the tier measures, provided they are based on accurate information and divided in the correct manner, and that must be done in a way that reflects what is going on in the ground.

“Now that we have a vaccine, that’s a cause for great celebration but to maintain our personal level of responsibility and keep our own personal preventative measures that we have done so well in the South West.”

Torbay’s infection rates are slightly higher –currently 160 per 100,000, although have also been falling quite sharply, and Kevin Foster, the Conservative MP for Torbay, said: “I welcome the statement today and the news we will exit national restrictions as promised on December 2.”

He added: “This has been possible thanks to the hard work of our NHS and Social Care teams, plus the many residents who have done their bit by sticking to the rules and following the guidance.

“It will be especially welcome to see church services return and many retail businesses re-open in time for Christmas, with the news about a possible vaccination programme giving a real sense of light at the end of the covid-19 tunnel.

“In terms of the next steps in our Bay, it is vital these are guided by the advice of our local public health teams, yet I hope we will soon have confirmation many hospitality businesses will be able to re-open under the tiered system, given we are very unlikely to be placed in the highest tier.”

Newton Abbot MP, Anne Marie Morris, who voted against the second lockdown, said she sincerely hoped that next Wednesday would be the end of lockdowns forever, but her fear is that most of the country will be in tier two or three with very few in tier one.

She added: “In Tier 2 that means no social gathering at home and in tier three no social gathering outside except in public places. With Devon MPs I am fighting for a place in Tier one.

“This lockdown has seen small, family-run, independent businesses closed and pretty much sacrificed, whilst the major out-of-town supermarkets have been able to remain open and make a fortune selling non-essential items.

“It is welcome that collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, subject to social distancing and that people will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces, with the rule of 6 now applying as it did in the previous set of tiers.

“But being placed in Tier 2 would have a hugely damaging impact on our hospitality sector, with pubs and bars being forced to close unless operating as restaurants. Much like the 10pm curfew, which has quite rightly been extended to 11pm, the Government needs to publish the evidence to show that transmission of the disease in a wet-led pub is any different to that in a restaurant, church, cinema or any other enclosed space.”

She added: “I am enormously concerned with the talk of us having to lockdown in January in order to ‘pay’ for those 4 or 5 days over Christmas. This is utter madness. January is already a miserable time of the year for individuals and businesses, and to lock us all down again would have an even more significant impact not just on the economy but on mental health, loneliness and other non-Covid related health conditions.”

And on whether she will vote for the tiered system, she added that unless the evidence for it comes forward, she would be voted against any further restrictions.

Members of the public complete a test swab during a lateral flow Covid test at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil, where mass coronavirus testing begins following a two-week “firebreak” lockdown.

She said: “Serious damage has already been caused by previous lockdowns and restrictions and I simply will not vote for measures that cause further damage to the health and wellbeing (physical and economic) of our community. A tiered system will have such a huge impact on people’s lives, their health and their businesses, and the Government needs to prove that these measures are going to save more lives than they cost.

“Therefore, they need to produce the risk assessment for these measures and prove beyond doubt that they have an overall benefit. So far, that evidence and the necessary assessments have not been forthcoming, and, therefore, I will be voting against the measures. We need long term planning and an exit strategy, not short term, knee-jerk reactions.”

Subject to approval by MPs, the new tier system will take effect from 12.01am on Wednesday, December 2. Areas will find out which tier they are to be placed in on Thursday, before a vote on the new measures will take place, likely to be on Monday.

WHAT ARE THE NEW RULES?

All tiers:

  • The tiers will have a uniform set of rules, there will be no negotiations by different regions.
  • Everyone should work from home if they can.
  • Shops and personal care services can open.
  • Early years settings, schools, colleges and universities remain open.
  • Registered childcare, other supervised activities for children and childcare bubbles allowed.
  • Indoor leisure – gyms and swimming – can open.
  • Elite sport, under-18 sport and disabled sport can continue.
  • Police will get new powers to close down premises breaking the rules.

Tier 1:

  • Households can mix inside and outside, but the rule of six applies.
  • Bars, pubs and restaurants must be table service only, last orders at 10pm, closing by 11pm.
  • Entertainment can reopen.
  • Avoid travel into Tier 3 areas.
  • Overnight stays permitted with your household/bubble, or up to six people from different households.
  • All accommodation can reopen.
  • Places of worship can reopen but more than six people from different households cannot interact.
  • Weddings, civil partnerships and wakes can have 15 guests.
  • Funerals can have 30 guests.
  • Exercise classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but rule of six indoors.
  • Elite sporting events, live performances and large business events can take place with 50% capacity, or 4,000 people outdoors/1,000 indoors (whichever is lower) – social distancing applies.

Tier 2:

  • No mixing of households indoors apart from support bubbles – rule of six outdoors.
  • Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants, and hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.
  • Last orders at 10pm, close by 11pm.
  • Reduce the numbers of journeys made and avoid travel into Tier 3 areas.
  • Overnight stays permitted with your household or support bubble.
  • Accommodation open.
  • Places of worship open but people cannot interact with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
  • Weddings, civil partnerships and wakes can have 15 guests.
  • Funerals can have 30 guests.
  • Exercise classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but not indoors if there is any interaction between different households.
  • Elite sporting events, live performances and large business events can take place with 50% capacity, or 2,000 people outdoors/1,000 indoors (whichever is lower) – social distancing applies.

Tier 3:

  • No mixing of households indoors or most outdoor places – rule of six in outdoor spaces such as parks and sports courts.
  • Hospitality venues closed, except for takeaway, drive-through or delivery.
  • Indoor entertainment venues closed.
  • Avoid travelling outside the area other than where necessary, including foreign travel.
  • No overnight stays outside local area, unless necessary for work, education or similar reasons.
  • Accommodation closed (with limited exceptions such as work purposes).
  • Places of worship open but people cannot interact with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
  • Weddings, civil partnerships and wakes can have 15 guests – but no wedding receptions allowed.
  • Funerals can have 30 guests.
  • Exercise classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but avoid higher-risk contact activity.
  • Group exercise and sports indoors should not take place, unless with household/bubble.
  • Elite sporting events, live performances and large business events banned but drive-in events permitted.

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