Explainer: Why Norfolk is likely to remain in Tier 2

Mobile coronavirus testing stations are continuing to visit Norfolk and Wavney towns. Picture: Sarah

Norfolk is not eligible for a new community coronavirus testing scheme because it is in tier 2. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Norfolk is expected to remain in Tier 2 when the government reviews its coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, after a small increase in cases. 

The key factors when making a decision about which tier areas are placed in are; overall rate of infections, rate of infections among people aged 60 and over and hospital activity.

Public Health England data up to December 9 shows the county's infection rate remains just above 100 cases per 100,000 people. That week the county recorded 952 infections, an increase of 4.2pc.

Rates are slightly lower than when Norfolk was first put into Tier 2 but the drop has not been sustained enough to ease restrictions. 

Meanwhile Suffolk’s rate remains below 100, at 95 per 100,000, but outbreaks in the Ipswich area added to a 40pc rise in cases in the week leading up to December 9, meaning the county is also expected to remain in Tier 2. 

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Recent hotspots in Norfolk have included an outbreak linked to HMP Norwich, where rates are over 500 per 100,000, and the Bradwell area where rates are as high as 377 per 100,000.

The government has previously said only areas with a sustained drop in cases would be considered for the lowest level of restrictions - Tier 1 status.

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Both counties' rates are much lower than that seen in parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, as well as the whole of Greater London, which found out yesterday it would be entering the highest level, Tier 3.

For example, the London Borough of Havering, with 1,321 cases in the week to December 9 meant a rate of 509 per 100,000, which puts Norfolk’s rate into some perspective, and suggests Tier 3 status would be highly unlikely at this point.

The over 60s

Norfolk’s rate has been on an upward trend in both the under 60s and the over 60s since late November. Rates among people aged over 60 were at 77.9 on December 9, rising from 63.6 in just over a fortnight.

In the under 60s, rates were at 116.9 on December 9, up from 104.3 on November 24.

The over 60 infection rate in South Norfolk remains the highest in the county, at 110.3 on December 9. Norfolk’s public health team have previously said the natural spread of infection from younger to older groups was behind the spike.

It seems likely they are still too high in areas like South Norfolk for the county to be considered for Tier 1 status. At the last review, rates over more than 100 in this age group in Great Yarmouth, Norwich and South Norfolk had a big impact on the decision to put the county in Tier 2 rather than 1.

What about hospitals?

In terms of hospital activity, the number of people in hospital beds with the virus is on the rise in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the James Paget University Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Similarly the number of people being admitted with the virus is also on an upward trend in all three hospitals, with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital the busiest.

Data up to December 3 also shows a rise in Covid patients on mechanical ventilators, with 82 patients treated this way across all three hospitals between December 1 and December 8. In the eight days leading up to Norfolk first being placed in Tier 2, 85 people were treated by ventilators in the hospitals.

To get into Tier 1, Norfolk needed to see a sustained drop in infection rates, especially among the elderly, and ideally a drop off in hospital activity. Judging by the data, the county has not met those requirements.

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