'Keep it local' - MP in stay away plea to people in higher tiers

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said he was getting emails daily from constituents about a lack of tests. Picture: Supplied...

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said he was getting emails daily from constituents about a lack of tests. Picture: Supplied by Duncan Baker - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk MP has implored people outside of the county to keep Christmas local after seeing the infection rate in his constituency pass 100 for the first time.

Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, has urged people who found themselves in higher tiers following prime minister Boris Johnson's announcement on Saturday night not to try and flock to Norfolk to avoid tighter restrictions.

And his calls have been echoed by Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, who himself has urged people locally not to take still being in Tier 2 for granted.

The Christmas plans of thousands of Norwich families were thrown into disarray over the weekend when Mr Johnson announced a dramatic shake-up of festive restrictions - banning overnight stays and limiting relaxation of rules to December 25 alone.

It meant families were left to frantically reshuffle their arrangements,  preventing people outside of the county with family in Norfolk returning to visit them or vice versa.

But Mr Baker, whose constituency still has the lowest rate in the county, said the decision was "absolutely the right one", despite the short notice.

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He said: "The news, while disappointing, is entirely appropriate given the new strain of the virus which is spreading rapidly in parts of the East.

"It is absolutely right that we must take action to limit the spread of this new strain.

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"I am desperately concerned that for the first time the rate of infection in North Norfolk has passed 100 cases per 100,000 people and I implore people to follow rules and those in Tiers 3 and 4 not to travel outside their own area."

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Meanwhile Mr Proctor once again warned people against complacency moving forward, both throughout the Christmas period and beyond it.

He said: "Let's not take Tier 2 for granted. I think in the circumstances we have no real alternative to the new measures that have been put in place.

"It is a big change, but I think we have just got to respect the restrictions and do our best to keep Christmas local.

"We have to take a level of personal responsibility at this stage and not be complacent."

However, while there are fears of people ignoring the rules to come to the region, a spokesman for Norfolk Constabulary said that there had yet to be any signs of a surge of people crossing the border.

They said: "We've not had any significant jobs around that. We do deal with a general flow of possible breaches but there has been no noticeable increase of that flow today."

Prime minister Boris Johnson. Pic: Richard Pohle/The Times/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson. Pic: Richard Pohle/The Times/PA Wire - Credit: PA

In a briefing on Saturday afternoon, the PM said: "I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year, and how important it is, for instance, for grandparents to see their grandchildren, for families to be together. So I know how disappointing this will be.

"But we have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes, we must change our response."

It comes against a backdrop of rising cases across the nation, with this no different in Norfolk.

The latest figures for the county show a record high infection rate since the beginning of the pandemic, with 169.6 cases per 100,000 people for the seven-day period ending December 16.

It also means that between December 10 and December 16, no week has seen a greater number of cases in the county since the start of the pandemic, with 1,540 positive tests returned.

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock

West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock - Credit: Archant

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that with the new strain of the virus becoming more prevalent, the stricter controls may be needed "for some time".

He said: "We do not know how long these measures are going to be in place. It may be for some time until we get the vaccine going.

"We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present. It is an enormous challenge."

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