Surprise as Devon remains in Tier 2 of Covid restrictions – despite case numbers ‘moving in the wrong direction’

Public health bosses are ‘surprised’ Devon was not placed into Tier 3 after the Government’s latest review of coronavirus restrictions.

UPDATE – WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30: East Devon and Exeter to move up into Tier 3 of coronavirus restrictions

The county has seen a 55 per cent increase in the number of Covid-19 cases over the last week, but remains in the bottom 20 per cent nationally for infection rates.

Figures show that Devon has, however, had the highest case rate since a previous peak in mid-November.

The county’s director of public health Steve Brown had warned the rise is likely to continue unless further restrictions are put in place.

But despite Cornwall going from Tier 1 to Tier 2, and Somerset from Tier 2 to Tier 3, Devon remains in Tier 2 for now.

But Mr Brown said: “Given our rising case numbers and emergence of the new variant, I am surprised that Devon has not yet been lifted into Tier 3.”

He added: “Cases in Devon have started to rise in all age groups, as per the national trend.

“The South West has started to see cases of the new variant, although it is not currently the prominent strain in Devon.

“It is highly infectious and the current evidence suggests it is very likely to lead to a significant increase in transmissibility, however, there is no evidence at the moment that it leads to worse clinical outcomes for people.

“Given our rising case numbers and emergence of the new variant, I am surprised that Devon has not yet been lifted into Tier 3.

“I ask everyone to play their part this Christmas in reducing our case numbers.

“Irrespective of this announcement, please minimise contact and adhere to the Tier 2 rules, and remember the key messages, to social distance, wear your face coverings when in a public space where social distancing is not possible, and wash your hands properly and regularly.”

Devon County Council leader John Hart, who also chairs the Local Outbreak Engagement Board, added: “I am thankful that Devon is remaining in Tier 2.

“However, case numbers are moving in the wrong direction and it feels inevitable that we will require tighter restrictions sooner rather than later to turn these numbers around, unless everyone shows great restraint and exercises every effort to adhere to the rules this Christmas.

“I would like to thank our Devon residents, and particularly pay tribute to the thousands of keyworkers on the frontline – our wonderful NHS staff, care workers and our teachers –  for their incredible resilience this year, and their commitment to each other to get through this pandemic.

“I know from talking to local people just how difficult this year has been for so many individuals and families, struggling to keep themselves safe while overcoming financial and psychological challenges.

“People are already doing so much, and it is asking a lot when things look so bleak, but I urge everyone to keep up that resolve and determination over the Christmas period and into the new near.

“The roll-out of vaccines should provide us all with hope but realistically it won’t be until the spring that this begins to have a significant impact.

“I also pay tribute to our local businesses for their remarkable efforts to adapt, keep their customers safe and stay afloat.

“I remain deeply concerned about the toll that all this is taking on many businesses and the impact that continued restrictions are having on our Devon economy, especially for those in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“I am very aware how difficult a year it has been for them, and sadly this now looks set to continue for some time.

“Many of our local hospitality businesses are really struggling, and unless there is more help from the government, many of these businesses may simply not survive.

“We will continue to work together as Team Devon with district councils, business leaders and our MPs to find ways to ensure that there is as much help and support as possible for those worst affected as we move into 2021.”

Tier we go again: Reaction as East Devon and Exeter remain under second-strictest Covid rules