Covid winter plan set to be revealed - including relaxing rules for Christmas
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
More areas will face tougher Covid restrictions as the country returns to the three tier system once lockdown is lifted but it is still unclear what measures will be imposed on Suffolk and North Essex.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to address parliament today and reveal the government’s Covid Winter Plan, including details of what happens as the country comes out of lockdown and how restrictions may be relaxed over Christmas.
It has been warned more areas will fall into the higher, more restrictive levels as the three tier system is reinstated once lockdown is lifted, which is due to happen on December 2.
Prior to the lockdown, Suffolk was in Tier 1 and Essex voluntarily moved up to Tier 2, but there are huge variations in infection rates across the region.
Mid Suffolk has one of the lowest infection rates in the country with 56.8 cases per 100,000 in the week to November 17. West Suffolk was only slightly higher at 60.9. In Tendring, which has seen spikes previously, the rate to November 17 was 68.9 per 100,000.
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However, cases have spiked in Babergh following outbreaks at care homes, schools and in the wider community. The rate across the district was 125, but in Hadleigh it has reached enarly 550. The national rate was 255.3.
John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council, said he hoped local outbreaks, such as that seen in Hadleigh, could be brought under control before lockdown ends, meaning Suffolk could return to the lower tier.
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He said: “Whatever system is brought into place needs to have some degree of flexibility. But it needs to be at the level where it has an effect.
“The county as a whole is doing alright, but we have hotspots. As long as we get on top of them, I see no reason Suffolk should be placed in a higher tier.”
During the briefing, Mr Johnson may announce plans for a relaxation of the rules over Christmas. It has been suggested up to three families would be able to form a temporary bubble and mix between December 22 and 28, with the plans covering all four nations of the UK.
Mr Johnson is believed to have spoken with cabinet members yesterday ahead of today’s announcement.
It has also been reported that the hospitality curfew may be relaxed slightly after complaints that the strict 10pm cut off has resulted in crowded streets and put pressure on taxi firms.
Instead of closing at 10pm, pubs must stop serving at this time before fully closing at 11pm.
Brendan Padfield, who manages The Unruly Pig restaurant near Woodbridge, said the previous curfew was “counter-productive” as it slashed his business’ income and meant all his customers left at once, however, he believes food should be allowed to be served past 10pm, even if alcohol cannot be sold after this.
Mr Padfield added: “Unless the government extend the food service times, this is a chocolate teapot. Not extending it means we are still restricted.
“If they are not going to extend it then what’s the point? What I hope is that common sense prevails.” MORE: Covid vaccination base in Suffolk will be ready for December 1