Tier 3 'very probable' in Suffolk due to rise in Covid infections
- Credit: Archant
Rising coronavirus infections mean it is "very probable" Suffolk could go into Tier 3 restrictions in the near future - or even Tier 4, the county's public health director has warned.
According to the latest Public Health England statistics, which cover the seven days to December 16, local authorities outside of Ipswich have begun to record stark rises in coronavirus infection rates.
It is yet to be confirmed whether the newly-discovered strain of coronavirus is behind the spikes, although the strain has been confirmed in the county.
The rises have been enough for Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's public health chief, to warn that the county could be headed for Tier 3 or Tier 4 restrictions should they continue.
Mr Keeble said: “Cases continue to rise at a worrying rate across Suffolk and the East of England. We have seen 1,365 weekly cases in Suffolk, which is double what it was two weeks ago (638) and increased hospital admissions.
“It is very probable that Suffolk will find itself in Tier 3, or even Tier 4 in the near future, which will have severe consequences for the way we live. This likely direction of travel serves as a warning that we all need to stop and check that we are being as thorough and strict with our Covid precautions as possible.
"We cannot be complacent – the virus is causing serious ill health and deaths in Suffolk."
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The rises have been particularly significant in West Suffolk and Mid Suffolk, where cases more than doubled in the week to December 16. There, the infection rate stands at 153 per 100,000 – up from 61.4 the week prior.
In Mid Suffolk, the rate rose from 62.6 per 100,000 to 160.7 – bringing both district's positions among the very lowest nationwide to an end.
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, whose constituency covers both West Suffolk and Mid Suffolk, said a "significant rise" in hospital admissions locally means Suffolk must adhere to the current restrictions to ensure it does not move up a tier.
Mrs Churchill said: "However, there is a risk that without strong interventions the spread of Coronavirus in Suffolk could increase even further, which is why we must now have a different, smaller Christmas than many of us would normally enjoy."
John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said the district's communities must continue to be "good neighbours" and look out for one another in a "time like no other".
“Everybody has a major role to play in reducing the rate of infection," he said. "West Suffolk has done very well in keeping rates low but as the Prime Minister and medical advisers announced on Saturday, the virus continues to evolve, including a variant that seems to be much more transmissible than before.
"I think, and there is little doubt, that without everyone doing even more now to take the precautions we all need to these infection rates will continue to rise."
East Suffolk has the lowest infection rate in the county at 138.3 cases per 100,000 – however did not avoid a significant increase over the week, having recorded a figure of 77 the week prior.
Steve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council, said developments over the past few days "have reminded us very clearly that we cannot let our guard down" and that the start of vaccinations doesn't mean people should begin taking things for granted.
He added: "I know it must be particularly upsetting for people to have the Christmas plans affected; however, the government advice is exactly right and we must put health first so that we may enjoy many more Christmases in the future.
"There is genuine light at the end of the tunnel but please – let's not waste the amazing work we have done to date. Stay safe.”
Felixstowe mayor Mark Jepson added he is in conversations with local health services to find out if the new strain is behind rising cases in the town.
He added: "If there is any time to listen to the scientific guidance, it is now."
In Babergh, the rate rose from 84.7 per 100,000 to 199.9, making it the second highest district in Suffolk behind Ipswich in terms of its coronavirus rate.
The county town saw a slight rise in comparison to other districts, with the rate within the borough of Ipswich rising from 200.1 per 100,000 to 222.8.