Experts fear some in Norfolk are following Tier One rules

A pedestrian wearing a face mask in Norwich amid the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Denise Bradley

This is a pivotal week for Norfolk's fight against coronavirus, health bosses have said. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Signs that coronavirus rates in Norfolk are on the increase has prompted a call for people and businesses to stick to the Tier 2 restrictions and stem the spread of Covid-19.

Concerns that some businesses - and their customers - are not sticking to the rules has prompted a plea from council and health bosses.

There are also concerns people are mixing indoors, which is not permitted under the Tier 2 restrictions Norfolk is under.

Police, environmental health offices and Covid support staff will be visiting businesses, such as pubs and restaurants across Norfolk tomorrow (Friday, December 12) to get the message across.

Tom McCabe, director of community and environmental services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: SIMON F

Tom McCabe, chairman of the strategic co-ordination group at Norfolk Resilience Forum - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Tom McCabe, chairman of the Strategic Coordination Group at Norfolk Resilience Forum, said: "I know that many people, businesses and organisations have found it tough over the last few months, but the restrictions are designed to stop the virus from spreading.

"The measures are in place to protect everyone and we must remember this.

"Only by working together can we protect our families and loved ones."

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Mr McCabe said businesses unsure of restrictions should contact local councils.

He said: "Tomorrow, environmental health officers, Covid support staff and neighbourhood police officers will be making visits to a number of venues in each district to offer additional advice and guidance and make clear their expectations around the restrictions."

Mr McCabe said enforcement action would be a last resort, but may be necessary "for those who persistently put people at risk".

He said the majority of businesses were playing their part, but that there had been some instances where that was not the case.

He said: "What none of us want is for those businesses to have to close because of an increase in infection levels.

"My plea is 'let's do the right thing so those businesses can stay open'.

Mr McCabe said there had been some instances reported to County Hall and districts of businesses not sticking to the rules or not sticking to the spirit of the rules - such as finding ways to get round the 'substantial meals' rule when selling alcohol.

The seven-day incidence of the virus in Norfolk for the week to December 4 was 99 per 100,000, up from 94 the previous week.

There are currently 226 people being treated in hospitals in Norfolk and Waveney, up from 182 the previous week.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's public health director. - Credit: Archant

Dr Louise Smith, public health director for Norfolk said: "The lockdown has brought some benefit to the figures in Norfolk and they have returned to those now similar to pre lockdown levels. 

"This is good progress but we are at a pivotal moment for the county on where we go next in our fight against the virus.

“I’m concerned that people might feel they are keeping to the rules, but that they might be following Tier 1 restrictions, not Tier 2.

“The greatest risk for the spread of infection is mixing between households and I worry that people are meeting up in groups of six in homes and in shops and restaurants.

"In Tier 2 households cannot mix in restaurants, and pubs and bars must close unless they are operating as restaurant.

"We all want to support our local businesses, to comply with the Tier 2 rules, as the rules that are there to keep us all safe.

"The best support we can give to these businesses is to keep to the guidelines when we visit, so they as a business can confidently meet the Covid guidelines."

'Too early to say' over tier review

The government will be reviewing which tier Norfolk is under next week, but council bosses said it was too early to say whether the county might go into a different tier.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: NCC

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: NCC - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "The whole point of this is the data is going to drive the decisions.

"That's what the government will do on December 16 and we've got to respect that.

"Having said that, we are meeting on a regular basis with officials from the DHSC (Department for Health and Social Care) to understand the drivers for this.

"In Norfolk, the changes in the overall infection rates  aren't great over the last couple of weeks, so we are in a steady state in that.

"What we can safely say is 'let's keep to the rules people have to follow'. And if we keep doing that we can make sure we can get down from Tier 2 as soon as we possibly can."

Dr Smith said there was an "early hint" of numbers going up, and "at best" numbers were stable.

She said: "The analysis as to which tier Norfolk will be in is clearly one that is done by national government, it's not for us locally to make the decision.

"But what we are clear about is that analysis nationally is starting now, and so will be based on the data that is available to us at this point.

"I think from that we can all start to draw our own ideas and conclusions about  what that data is telling us, bearing in mind we will also see some relaxation on the rules around families mixing over the Christmas period."

Great Yarmouth rates

Great Yarmouth has seen an increase in rates, from 86 cases per 100,000 to 126 cases per 100,000.

Dr Smith said: "Over the past week there has been a notable increase in the number of cases in Great Yarmouth.

"But when we go to investigate those, the vast majority can be linked to settings and outbreaks that we are aware of.

"So we are seeing the cases occur in the places we would expect them, so that's care homes and schools - the places we are already working with."

Other Norfolk rates in the seven days up to December 4, with the previous week in brackets are:

Rates per 100,000 for the week to December 4 (previous week in brackets) are: Breckland: 72 (62); Broadland 102 (125),;King's Lynn and West Norfolk 93 (86); North Norfolk 70 (85); Norwich 122 (122) and South Norfolk 111 (99).

How many outbreaks?

The number of outbreaks in care homes and schools have gone up on the previous week.

Defined as situations where there are two or more cases, there were 60 outbreaks in care homes, up on 55 the week before.

There were 34 outbreaks in Norfolk schools, up on the 25 the previous week.

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