Norfolk can ‘earn its way’ into looser restrictions after lockdown for ‘good behaviour’
PUBLISHED: 17:16 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 09:00 04 November 2020
Norfolk people have been urged to “knuckle down” to obeying the national lockdown rules - to earn their way into looser restrictions afterwards for “good behaviour”.
Council leaders and a leading coronavirus expert are confident that the county is in pole position to cut its Covid cases in the next four weeks.
They also think that on December 2, when the lockdown ends, Norfolk should return to Tier One, the lowest of the three levels of restrictions.
But they all agreed that a positive outcome depended on another resolute response by the public.
John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said: “If local areas play by the rules then they should be able to earn their way out for good behaviour.
“But that good behaviour needs to start now, not on December 2. So if we want to get home for Christmas, we need to knuckle down. That’s not an easy message, but this is a national situation.
“We are going into this on the basis that we are in tier one and we would hope the default position is that we come out of it in tier one.”
That’s the message from community leaders and experts as MPs prepare to vote on the second national Covid-19 lockdown in Parliament on Wednesday.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has said the time-limited lockdown, due to start on Thursday, would “without a shred of doubt” come to an end on December 2.
After that point, the system of regional tiers will be introduced and leaders said if people in Norfolk adhered to the rules and stemmed the spread the counties could emerge back in the lowest level of restrictions.
Mr Johnson said: “When we come to December 2, the tier that areas go into will depend very much on the effectiveness with which we have all followed the instructions.”
Prof Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said he believed Norfolk was well placed to go back to the lowest level of restrictions once the national lockdown ended.
He said: “If any local authorities are going to able to go back to the lowest levels of restrictions after this, it’s going to be Norfolk or Cornwall.
“I think it’s more likely than not that Norfolk will see a reduction in cases. Given we are a rural county, our R rate will be much closer to 1 than some areas and this lockdown is likely to bring us below 1, unlike in, say, Manchester.
“Nationally, though, I don’t know if Boris Johnson has any idea how this current lockdown will end. To me, it is inconceivable that we will get to the end of it and everything will be hunky-dory. That simply isn’t going to happen.”
Mr Fuller also said that a conversation needed to be held about countywide lockdowns in the future, pointing out that the sheer size of Norfolk meant such measures could be unfair.
He said: “I think its incumbent on public health to stop thinking about lockdowns on a countywide basis, but to perhaps look at lockdowns on district boundaries or, possibly, hospital catchment areas.
“It’s worth having a conversation about that, as it could be a sensible approach, rather than lockdowns for the whole of Norfolk.”
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “From a Norfolk point of view, we want to thank everyone for what they have done so far. It’s absolutely essential that people show the fortitude that they showed last time around.
“We have demonstrated that, where we have taken local action we have got outbreaks under control and it is essential that we have the ability to do that locally.
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“With the community on our side, we have every hope that by the end of these four weeks, we have an extremely good chance that we can emerge back into tier one.”
Tier one means a medium level of coronavirus infection, with restrictions including the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and the rule of six when socialising indoors and outdoors.
Tier two is where there is a high level of infections. Previously, decisions were taken to impose it when cases rise above a key threshold of 100 per 100,000 population.
Under that tier, people cannot meet socially with friends and family indoors unless they live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.
The ‘very high’ tier three is the most restrictive, and includes the closure of pubs and bars and tighter controls on meeting indoors and outdoors.
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