New three-tier Covid lockdown system ‘welcomed’ in Suffolk

A new three-tier Covid-19 lockdown system has been welcomed by Suffolk MPs - who hope it will allow the county to avoid the harshest restrictions and limit damage to the economy.

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed in the House of Commons on Monday that the new system would replace the “complicated” current mix of restrictions in place across England.

From Wednesday, the lowest category would represent “medium risk” areas - while tier three would be put in place in “high risk” areas.

Medium risk areas will continue with the current national restrictions, including the rule of six and the hospitality 10pm curfew.

High risk areas will see further measures in place, including a ban on households mixing indoors. However, support bubbles will be allowed to continue.

The very highest alert level will apply to areas causing the most concern - and social mixing will be prohibited indoors and in private gardens.

Pubs and bars will be closed in the very high alert level areas, unless they can operate as a restaurant.

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People will also be advised against travel in and out of the areas.

It is expected that Suffolk will be placed in the medium risk category.

Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said the new alert system was “needed” - but added that any future changes to Suffolk’s categorisation need to be made alongside local NHS bodies and the county council.

He said: “I think that moving to this three-tier system is a good idea. It is to be welcomed.

“I think it needs to be as simple and as straightforward as possible.

“Decisions as to whether an area is put into a tier need to be taken after liaising and working very closely with the local NHS and the local authority, who do have the best feel and the best grip of what is going on in their area.

“I think that has been a criticism in the past and I get the feeling that the government is learning that particular lesson.”

Mr Aldous did not want to speculate which category Suffolk would be put into but did add that, despite a rise in cases, the number of infections is still significantly below other parts of the country such as Nottingham and Liverpool.

“There is clearly a rise in the number of cases in the community I represent, so I think these new measures are needed,” he said.

“I think for those areas that go into the highest tier, clearly the hospitality sector in particular will be seriously affected.

“I note that when the prime minister does make his national appearance this evening, I believe the chancellor will be with him.

“It would not surprise me if there were some new announcements as far as support for the hospitality sector which is really taking it on the chin at the moment and is an important component in our local economy.”

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, hopes the tier system will mean that Ipswich will not be placed under blanket restriction with the rest of the country due to the low infection rates.

He said: “It’s very much my expectation that Ipswich will be in the lowest category, bearing in mind the comparatively low levels of Covid-19 in the town.

“I don’t think that the 10pm curfew is necessary in Ipswich at the moment and I think is doing more harm for our hospitality sector - and people’s livelihoods connected to the hospitality sector - than it is bringing any public benefits.

“Hopefully the three-tier system will allow us to move away from the one size fits all measure, because it doesn’t work.

“I don’t see the case for nationalised measures for sectors like hospitality.

“My view is at the moment that the vast majority of people in my constituency have done a very good job when it comes to following the rules, following the guidelines and they get the seriousness of this and the majority of them have been living out their lives in a responsible way.”

MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Dr Dan Poulter said that the new rules will provide the public with more clarity about what restriction will be needed, if cases rise.

“Firstly I’m pleased that we appear to be avoiding, at this stage anyway, another national lockdown,” he said.

“What we needed to see today was much greater clarity about what different steps and restrictions would be needed as virus cases increased in certain areas. I think we have got that clarity. “I think that will help give the public much greater certainty over the coming months.

“It’s good news for businesses it’s good news for people who, in a mindful way, can continue with their day to day lives.”

Meanwhile, while on a visit to The Square and Compasses pub in Fairstead, home secretary Priti Patel said the government had a “difficult balancing act” between public safety and economic security.

The Witham MP said: “There is no doubt that businesses in the hospitality sector are finding it particularly difficult to cope with the continuing restrictions.

“Obviously, the government has to take into account both public safety and the needs of businesses that have to make money in order to survive.

“It is a difficult balancing act. It was very interesting to hear from the front line how things are going.”