Reaction as East Devon & Exeter remain under Tier 2 Covid restrictions

East Devon and Exeter will remain under Tier 2 coronavirus restriction for Christmas, the Government has confirmed today.

Interesting to compare what the local MPs and Council Leaders say – guess who says very little? Below this article Owl posts the latest Covid-19 symptom tracker data for East Devon.

Daniel Clark 

Case numbers and pressure on the NHS have been cited as reasons why all of Devon will stay subject to the second-strictest set of rules.

Whitehall will carry out its next review at the end of the year.

Tier 2 restrictions in East Devon & Exeter mean:

  • No household mixing indoors;
  • Rule of six applies outdoors;
  • Pubs and restaurants to shut at 11pm;
  • Alcohol only served as part of a substantial meal;
  • Spectators allowed at sports events and live performances, in limited numbers;
  • Personal care, including hairdressing, allowed.

Conservative East Devon MP Simon Jupp said: “Following the latest review, Devon will sadly stay in Tier 2.

“Cases are rising and the RD&E is under severe strain due to staff sickness.

“The Nightingale is helping to relieve pressure and we can all do our bit by remembering #HandsFaceSpace. We will get through this, together.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said: “Many people will be disappointed by this, given our Covid rates and Covid hospitalisations have been low and falling.

“But the shortage of NHS beds and staff after ten years of Conservative Government cuts and fears about the impact of the Christmas relaxation probably made this decision inevitable, sadly.”

East Devon District Council leader Paul Arnott said: “The ongoing lack of bed capacity in our county’s NHS – as warned about for many years – remains the key reason why we cannot escape Tier 2, and I feel very sorry for all the businesses and employees affected by this.

“It is now absolutely clear that the return of Devon’s student populations in October after a successful summer suppressing the pandemic was the key factor bringing the virus into our area.

“The students themselves are blameless, but the Government and university decisions to press on with the autumn term have come at the cost of local health and employment.

“I am relieved that the universities seem much better prepared for the spring term of 2021.

“Finally, I would urge everyone to take the greatest care with the basics of personal and collective hygiene, and that all who are offered vaccination take it without delay.”

Devon County Council leader John Hart, who also chairs the county’s multi-agency Local Outbreak Engagement Board, said: “I’m afraid this is the right decision because of the number of positive cases in Devon right now – especially among our older residents – and the huge pressure on our NHS services.

“But if we are to accept these restrictions continuing into the New Year, the Government must act swiftly with more support for local businesses.

“When we went into Tier 2, I called for action and I am renewing that call today.

“Every day I am hearing from businesses which are being severely affected and many of our local hospitality companies are on their knees. The Government must do more to help them survive otherwise many of these companies – which are the lifeblood of Devon’s economy – won’t be here in the New Year.”

Devon’s Director of Public Health Steve Brown, added: “We had been seeing our case numbers falling due to the recent national lockdown, but that fall has slowed and has now levelled off since we adopted Tier 2 restrictions.

“I do not believe that we are ready yet to relax our restrictions to the lower tier, especially as we head into Christmas, and the likelihood – although I would advise people think really hard about doing so – of families and friends meeting up in Christmas bubble arrangements.”

Data from the covid-19 symptom tracker app.

As Owl has explained before, these data are well worth keeping an eye on. In Owl’s opinion they provide a daily record from a very large sample of a proxy measure of infection. In the first phase of the study these measures of self- reported symptoms were statistically compared, and adjusted, against those eventually testing Covid positive. Their significance is that they have been shown to track the trajectory of the pandemic, indeed, have given the earliest indication of turning points.

For the moment the local picture is looking encouraging as can be seen in the graph below which plots the number of active cases estimated from the app per million (generally elsewhere reports have standardised on cases per 100,000). It is really only the app. that has a sufficient daily sample to provide such a picture at local level. Before Owl started a daily record, the East Devon case rate was double that shown. What this indicates is that the infection appears to be still slowly falling in East Devon, despite the relaxation from Lockdown 2 to the revised Tier* system. Lockdown 2 started on 5 November and ended on 2 December.