Here's why the government put Norfolk in Tier 4
- Credit: PA
A rapid growth in infection rates as a steep rise in hospital measures contributed to the government's decision to place Norfolk in the highest tier of coronavirus restriction.
When health secretary Matt Hancock revealed the latest changes to regionalised restrictions, few would have expected Norfolk to remain in Tier 2 with cases well and truly on the rise.
However, the announcement that the county would leapfrog Tier 3 and go straight into Tier 4, it came as a surprise to some.
But the government has now revealed a more detailed picture of why this was, attributing it to the sheer rate at which the virus had begun to spread and hospital admissions.
The government's justification in full
"In the past week, the picture in Norfolk has deteriorated significantly, with case rates in all local authorities increasing by 30pc or more.
"The most worrying increase in case rate is seen in Breckland, with an increase in cases of 106pc since last week. Rapid increases are also seen in Broadland (90pc) and North Norfolk (71pc). "
"The case rate in people 60 years and older is highest in Kings Lynn and West Norfolk at 153 per 100,000 and Breckland at 138 per 100,000 with increases seen in both local authorities.
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"Test positivity is above five per cent in six out of seven local authorities.
"The number of daily Covid-19 hospital admissions in the local NHS (Norfolk & Waveney STP) continues to rise steeply.
"The daily Covid-19 bed occupancy has now risen to the national acute hospital average and continues to rise. Critical levels are stable.
"The rate of increase of the epidemiological indicators is concerning and warrants that Norfolk is escalated to Tier 4."
Six days that sealed it
Speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk this morning, Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk, said that the county's situation had drastically changed over the past six days, making the move necessary.
Dr Smith said: "What is really clear, over the last six or seven days the numbers have really taken off and are now rising very quickly.
"It may be the new variant and we think now just after half of the cases are the new variant but it's also worth remembering that all our predictions and scenarios did predict we were in for a tough winter and unfortunately this does look the direction we are heading in."
She added: "When we look at the data by district area we are seeing the numbers rise in every district.
"When we look at the kind of settings those are in we are seeing a very widespread - we are dealing with around 180 outbreaks at the moment. Clearly, places, where outbreaks are common like care homes and schools, are featuring, but nearly 100 cases yesterday were people getting infected in their own household."
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, added: "These restrictions will not be lifted overnight and we have to recognise that. The most important thing now is how can we quickly break the chain of transmission and the impact on businesses and on individual
"I do not think there is anything that says it's going to last x months but there is an inevitability that we've got to this situation now. Unless there's a very, very quick downward change things are going to be like this for a while.
"I think 'some time' is the best phrase we can use [for a timescale] - it's not going to last just a few weeks."
James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, also speaking to Radio Norfolk, said: "We were making progress as a county and people were following the guidance, but unfortunately we are now in the top tier. The focus for us all has to be for us all to play our part and limit our contact with other people to try and reduce the transmission."
The over-arching message of Tier 4 is to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
Shops, restaurants, gyms, theatres and pubs are all set to close, though shops can offer click and collect and the hospitality industry can offer takeaway services.
The rule of six for meeting outdoors is also scrapped, although you can meet one person at a time in an outdoor setting.
Schools and places of work remain open, but people are required to work at home unless it is impossible to do so.