Explained: What do the latest figures tell us about Suffolk’s and Essex’s likely Covid tier?

Coronavirus cases are falling in Suffolk, but this will not be the only number civil servants pore over when deciding which tier to place the region in.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that each area of England will be put into one of three tiers, after lockdown ends of December 2, with each tier having a different level of restrictions.

At the moment we do not know the size of each tier.

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It is thought likely that the country will be broken into larger areas, rather than each small council area being put into a different tier.

But will Suffolk and Essex be in different tiers? Or, more likely, will the government opt for a more regional approach, with the whole of east England placed together?

A decision is expected on Thursday.

However, we do know already that when making their decisions, officials will look at coronavirus cases across all age groups, and specifically among the over-60s who are considered most at risk.

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They will also consider whether infection rates are rising or falling and the prevalence of the disease per 100,000 of population.

Local pressure on the NHS will also be factored in.

• Infection rates

From looking at the data, Suffolk should start off in one of the lower tiers – one or two – rather than tier three after December 2.

But in Essex the picture is more complicated.

The latest data, for the week up to November 18, shows cases still rising in the county.

Most of the cases are in the south of Essex around London.

The infection rate is 154 per 100,000 people, still below the England average of 228.

In Suffolk, infection rates are much lower, at 78.9 cases per 100,000.

That rate has largely been falling since November 11, when it peaked at 97.9, and leaves Suffolk ranked 197th out of 215 English council areas.

• Over 60s

The latest Government test and trace data up to the week ending November 11 shows 4.3% of people over the age of 60 who took a virus test in Suffolk returned a positive result.

The data for people aged 60 or over mirrors the overall positive test percentage for Suffolk, which was also 4.3% in the same week.

But across England, 8.2% of people aged 60 or over tested positive in the same week, and the positive rate was 9.6% across all ages.

Though Suffolk’s percentages are behind the national trend, they have been growing since the first week of October, when only 0.9% of over-60s were testing positive, and 1.5% of all age groups.

In Essex, the percentage of people aged 60 or over testing positive was 5% for the week ending November 11, up from 1.7% in the first week of October.

Across all age groups, the percentage was 6.1%, up from 2.7% in the same period.

• Hospitals

Regional hospital stats look promising for the region.

NHS England figures show there were 956 patients with coronavirus in hospital beds in the east of England on Monday, the lowest number of all seven NHS regions.

Although the numbers are smaller than the other regions the amount of people in beds with the virus has been rising steadily since September.

Across the East Suffolk and North Essex and West Suffolk NHS trusts, the latest data shows there were 123 virus patients in hospital beds as of November 17.

Whichever tier we end up in, the government has said it will be reviewed every 14 days, meaning we could be moved to stricter or looser restrictions later on. Overall restrictions will run to the end of March.

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