MPs call for Norfolk to be in own coronavirus tier

Conservative MP James Wild.

North West Norfolk MP James Wild. - Credit: Archant

MPs are calling for Norfolk to be treated separately from nearby counties when the decision is made over which tier of coronavirus restrictions people in the county will have imposed once the national lockdown ends.

It remains unclear at what level tiers will be applied at, with government documents referring to “a regionally-differentiated approach”.

Whether that means areas such as Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex will be lumped in as the East of England with all areas under the same tier, or whether individual counties will be allocated tiers has not been confirmed.

But North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker and North West Norfolk MP James Wild have both stated they want to see the tiers applied on a county by county basis.

Mr Baker said there needed to be a “sensible regional area” and that Norfolk should be a “region on its own merit” and not “absorbed” with other counties such as Suffolk.

He said there needed to be local focus and control, so Norfolk’s level was not affected by “outbreaks in Essex”.

He said Norfolk remained substantially below the national average of infections and they had been broadly falling.

The Conservative MP said: “We don’t know what the regionality will be, however it’s unlikely that it will be based on constituency or district, it’s likely to be more regional than that. I think it’s only sensible that Norfolk is looked at as a whole.”

Fellow Conservative Mr Wild, speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk, said he had been making the case with ministers for Norfolk not to be treated as part of the East of England.

He said: “Norfolk has got a lower average than other parts of the country and we should be treated as a county, rather than being grouped with the rest of the East of England.

“And we should be in the lowest tier possible that’s consistent with minimising the transmission rates.

"They are going to be looking at the latest data tomorrow and that’s when the decision will be made.

“I obviously want us to be in the lowest tier which is sensible for the area and the situation.”

He said going into tier two would be “very damaging” to the hospitality sector.

The government has said data which will be taken into account includes coronavirus cases across all age groups, and specifically among the over-60s who are considered most at risk.

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.
Norfolk was in tier one - the lowest level of restrictions before the national lockdown was introduced at the start of November.

The government will be putting areas in strengthened tiers, but there is speculation that, when lockdown is lifted on December 2, only a handful of areas will be placed in tier one.

National newspapers have reported Whitehall sources saying very few areas would be in that tier, with most places in tiers two or three.

MPs in Suffolk have been making a similar case to government that an East of England tier is not appropriate.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, said he and his colleagues were hoping the government would recognise the differences that exist within the East of England region.

Dr Poulter said: “We think the government was looking at a regional decision – but some of us are hoping to persuade them that there is a great difference between counties like Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and communities near the M25 which are effectively part of Greater London.”

He said MPs were hoping to persuade the government to consider the issue on a “sub-regional” basis – possibly looking at Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire as one entity separate from the communities nearer to London.

The government has said there will be no negotiations with local councils about which tier areas will be put into.

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