As region nears coronavirus tier review, NHS bosses issue warning

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

A decision on whether coronavirus tiers in Norfolk and Suffolk will change will be made on Wednesday. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Days before a decision on whether Norfolk and Suffolk's coronavirus restriction tiers should be changed, NHS bosses have warned Boris Johnson relaxing restrictions could trigger a third wave of Covid-19.

In a letter to the prime minister, NHS Providers urged "extreme caution" in moving any area of England to a lower tier at a time of year when hospitals are at their busiest.

The first review of England's tier allocation is due take place on Wednesday, two weeks after the three-tier system was brought in following the end of lockdown.

Norfolk and Suffolk are both in Tier 2 and had been in Tier 1 prior to the national lockdown.

But the letter from NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said areas should be moved into the highest tier of restrictions "as soon as this is needed, without any delay".

Boris Johnson has praised Norfolk knitter Margaret Seaman Photo: BRITTANY WOODMAN

NHS bosses have urged prime minister Boris Johnson not to relax coronavirus restrictions - Credit: Archant

Chief executive Chris Hopson told the BBC: "We're about to hit our busiest time of year so people are really worried that if we relax the restrictions now the NHS simply won't be able to cope with all of the work that it needs to do in late December, January and February."

While the letter did not call for a review of the temporary relaxation of measures over Christmas, NHS Providers said it was "vital" the public understands the risks of extra social contact during the festive period.

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Social distancing rules will be relaxed for five days between December 23 and 27, allowing family members to hug for the first time in months.

A government spokeswoman said ministers will not "hesitate to take necessary actions to protect local communities" and that decisions are made based on the latest available data.

"We have introduced strengthened local restrictions to protect the progress gained during national restrictions, reduce pressure on the NHS and ultimately save lives," the spokeswoman said.

"On top of our record NHS investment, this winter we are providing an extra £3bn to maintain independent sector and Nightingale hospital surge capacity and a further £450m to upgrade and expand A&Es."

On Saturday, the government said a further 519 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK, with a further 21,502 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock has indicated that towns and villages will not be able to move alert level by being "decoupled" from nearby coronavirus hotspots.

Matt Hancock said in a letter to Tory MPs that "narrow carve-outs" of lower prevalence areas often leads to them "catching up" or "overtaking" areas with higher levels, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Health secretary Matt Hancock. - Credit: PA

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker had been among those who had previously suggested it might be possible for different sections of Norfolk to be covered by different tiers.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker has called for a blanket ban on people travelling to Norfolk from high

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP. - Credit: Archant

But, on Friday, Conservative MP Mr Baker tweeted that the case for having a divided county with separate tiers would be "difficult to implement or communicate".

https://twitter.com/duncancbaker/status/1337451149637586945

He said: "I want to keep a Norfolk region, not a bigger East of England area."

He added: "The major concern is still the significant and intense hospital pressure.

"Still a lot of concern with Covid patients and pressure on other services."

Decisions over tiers are made around a number of factors, including overall rates, rates in over 60s, percentage of positive tests and capacity in hospitals.


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