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Norfolk MP calls for travel ban on those in high coronavirus rate areas

PUBLISHED: 11:30 25 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14 25 September 2020

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker at Mundesley. Picture: Supplied by Duncan Baker

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker at Mundesley. Picture: Supplied by Duncan Baker

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People from locked-down parts of the country should face a blanket travel ban as a way to stop the spread in less affected areas, a Norfolk MP has said.

A sign reminding people about social distancing in Sheringham. North Norfolk has had one of the lowest coronavirus rates in the country. Photo: KAREN BETHELLA sign reminding people about social distancing in Sheringham. North Norfolk has had one of the lowest coronavirus rates in the country. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, said a travel ban on people from places with a high rate of coronavirus transmission such as Bolton, Manchester and Leicester would mean they weren’t allowed to enter areas like north Norfolk, where the rates remain low.

Mr Baker said he was going to lobby to bring in the new rule as fears of a second wave of the virus continue to grow.

He said: “What we have to come to grips with is that over winter we will see people coming into our area on holiday. That’s really important for the trade we need. But it would be a sensible precaution to put a brake on people from high infection areas that are locked down coming to areas with a low infection rate.”

Although there are extra restrictions in local lockdown areas around eating out and home visits and many business must remain closed, residents are still allowed to travel out of their cities and even across the country.

Sarah Butikofer, leader of NNDC. Pictures: David BaleSarah Butikofer, leader of NNDC. Pictures: David Bale

MORE: Why coronavirus levels in North Norfolk are among the lowest in Britain

Mr Baker said such a travel ban would not make the already complicated patchwork of restrictions more difficult to understand.

He added: “It would simplify the rules. If you are in a locked down area you cannot travel outside of it for a holiday. The risk is, that they might be asymptomatic.”

Earlier this month it was reported that North Norfolk had the second lowest rate in the country, with only one case for every 100,000 residents.

Sarah Bütikofer, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said there were several reasons why the district’s rate could be so low - despite an influx of late-summer tourists and its high number of nursing and care homes, which have been vulnerable to outbreaks in other parts of the country.

Visitors to Cromer in September. North Norfolk had an influx of tourists after the lockdown restrictions were eased. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNVisitors to Cromer in September. North Norfolk had an influx of tourists after the lockdown restrictions were eased. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mrs Bütikofer said: “It’s a lot to do with the type of visitors we get - they tend to be families and older visitors, and both of those groups tend to respect the regulations better.

“Also a lot of activities in north Norfolk are in the open air - people come here to enjoy our beautiful beaches and landscape and we know that when you’re in the open the risk of transmission is that much lower.”

Mrs Bütikofer said the council was also using disinfection fogging machines to sanitise public conveniences, play areas and high-touch areas on Cromer Pier.

She said the council’s ‘Gold command group’ - a local version of the government’s Cobra crisis team, continued to meet weekly.

People have generally followed coronavirus rules including the wearing fo masks in north Norfolk. Picture: Getty ImagesPeople have generally followed coronavirus rules including the wearing fo masks in north Norfolk. Picture: Getty Images

She said: “We can’t afford to be complacent because in the first round of Covid we were behind the initial trend. We need to make sure we’re watching and ready and we won’t hesitate to take further action if needed.”

Halvergate House in Yarmouth Road, North Walsham, is among the district’s care homes that have remained Covid-free throughout the pandemic.

MORE: Norfolk MP seeks assurance over further lockdown measures

Caroline Baines, operations manager at its owners, East Anglia Care Homes, said: “In a way we were lucky because were locked down before the rest of the country because of norovirus - the winter vomiting bug.

“We have tried to get a very stable occupancy and we’ve been very careful about who we take.

“Our staff are also very local, so they don’t need to take a lot of public transport, and we also benefit from being very rural.”

Mrs Baines said they would continue to restrict entry to home and conduct weekly staff testing to protect its 38 residents.

“We banned as much footfall through our homes as we could and that will be our strategy going forward,” she said.

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk County Council’s director of public health, said: “On the whole, the people of Norfolk, our communities and businesses have done a good job of following the advice around washing our hands, keeping our distance and covering our faces.”


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