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Coronavirus: Norfolk to move into tier four on Boxing Day

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Norfolk is heading for the toughest coronavirus restrictions this week, the government has said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced this afternoon that Norfolk is one of the counties in the south-east moving into tier four from Boxing Day.

From 00.01 on December 26, Norfolk will join Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in tier four. The county is currently in the 'high alert' tier two restrictions.

Health secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: PA
Health secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: PA

Mr Hancock said the new variant of coronavirus was spreading at a “dangerous rate”.

He added that East Anglia in particular has seen a 'significant' number of infections of the new variant of the virus.

Work conducted by the Quadram Institute shows that the new variant of Covid 19, discussed by the Prime Minister in his regular updates, has caused around 45 per cent of all positive samples in the community in Norfolk in the first week of December.

This new variant is believed to transmit much more easily, although there is currently no evidence that it makes people more unwell.

North West Norfolk MP James Wild said: “This is very disappointing news for people and businesses across West Norfolk and the county at the end of an incredibly tough year.

"Despite people’s efforts, the new Covid variant is driving a rapid increase in cases and putting pressure on local hospitals. In West Norfolk our rate is now 221 per 100,000 people – an increase of 65 per cent week on week - and QEH has almost double the number of Covid-19 patients that it did in the first wave.

"Given the rapid spread and pressure on local hospitals, it’s important now that we continue to play our part by remembering hands, face, space and follow the new tier four rules from Boxing Day."

If you live in a tier four area, you cannot leave or be outside of the place you are living unless you have a reasonable excuse. Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to close.

You will not be able to meet other people indoors, including over the New Year period, unless you live with them, or they are part of your support bubble.

Residents can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services from local essential businesses which are permitted to open.

People can leave home for education, registered childcare, under-18 sport and physical activity, as well as supervised activities for children that are necessary to allow parents/carers to work, seek work, or undertake education or training.

Parents can still take their children to school, and people can continue existing arrangements for contact between parents and children where they live apart.

Exercise is permitted outdoors as well as visiting some public outdoor places, such as parks, the countryside, public gardens or outdoor sports facilities.

Unlimited exercise is allowed alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble, or with one other person if you maintain social distancing.

Supporters will no longer be able to attend sport fixtures, which includes King's Lynn Town FC's clash against Notts County on Boxing Day. Linnets chairman Stephen Cleeve said more than 700 tickets had been sold on Monday.

Informal childcare for children aged 13 and under as part of a childcare bubble is allowed under the new restrictions, as well as care for vulnerable people.

Emergency assistance, attending a support group of up to 15 people, and respite care for a vulnerable person or a person with a disability are also permitted.

The Majestic Cinema in Lynn posted a statement on social media to say the venue was being closed until further notice.

It said: "We understand that some people already have tickets booked for the next week, if you do, please contact us and we will arrange a refund with you.

"We hope you all keep safe and have the best Christmas possible! We'll be back as soon as we can!"

There will also be a suspension of weddings in Norfolk with limited exceptions, such as deathbed marriages, as required by the government.

The county council Ceremonies Team will be available to advise couples whose weddings have had to be postponed.

The Health Secretary stated some more hopeful news regarding the vaccines this afternoon.

Mr Hancock said: "However tough this Christmas and winter is going to be, we know that the transforming force of science is helping to find a way through.

"I am delighted to be able to tell you that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine developed here in the UK has submitted its full data package to the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) for approval.

"This is the next step towards a decision on the deployment of the vaccine which is already being manufactured, including here in the UK."

He added: "I know how hard 2020 has been for everybody.We mustn't give up now, we must suppress the virus until a vaccine can make us safe."

The latest rate for infection in the community in the borough is 221 per 100,000 – up from 83 pre-lockdown.

Latest NHS England figures showed 11 new coronavirus-related deaths were recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the week up to last Friday, December 18, taking the overall total to 191 at the Gayton Road site.

And the seven day incidence of the virus in Norfolk overall for the week to December 18 was 193 per 100,000 up from 120 the previous week.

There are now 372 people being treated for the infection in hospitals in Norfolk and Waveney and rates in the over 60s are rising at 124 cases per 100,000 in the week to December 18.

Andrew Proctor, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “With our hospitals under increasing pressure and rates of the virus in the county continuing to rise over a number of indicators, the news of tougher restrictions for Norfolk isn’t what we wanted to hear but in those circumstances doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.

"Looking on the brighter side our case rates are still lower than other areas of the country, particularly the south-east.

“Norfolk has made a collective effort to keep the virus at bay as best we can and it’s essential we continue to do that. It’s the impact on our hospitals that’s driving this change and we can’t afford to overwhelm them preventing our hard-pressed doctors and nurses from treating people and saving lives.

“I know this isn’t the news people want to hear at any time and particularly in the run up to Christmas, but the new variant of the virus means that it is more important than ever that we work together to protect our loved ones, protect the NHS and protect Norfolk.

“We know there’s a vaccine just round the corner but until many more people have had the jab the precautionary steps everyone must take of hands, face and space must continue. I hope that we can all take personal responsibility to do just that.

“We’d like to see family and friends on Christmas Day within the guidelines, but with Covid cases in our county rising rapidly we have to ask ourselves ‘is it necessary?’, ‘can the time together be shorter?’ and ‘can our gathering be smaller?’ as well as: ‘is it safe?’ and ‘is it sensible?’.

"We all want 2021 to be a better and brighter year and that means we need to celebrate Christmas and New Year with all those points in mind. By asking ourselves those questions particularly over the coming days, we can help to protect ourselves, protect others and protect Norfolk."

The public health measures to minimise contact with others remain in place, keep washing hands, maintaining social distancing reducing the contact we have with other people and wearing a face covering indoors continue to help reduce transmission of the virus.

Anyone who has symptoms or tests positive is reminded to isolate and should not make a Christmas bubble.

Chief Constable, Simon Bailey, said: “Reports of increasing infection rates associated with a new variant of Covid-19 will naturally cause concern among our communities. While traditionally this time of year lends itself to time with family and friends, the greatest gift we can give to our loved ones is respect and adherence to the regulations.

"I would encourage everyone to work together; we must follow the rules as it’s the only way to help stop the spread of the virus and reduce infections.”

The rules around support bubbles (where a single-adult household or a household that include young children or with continuous care needs can group with another household as if they were one) remain in place.

There is also a set of rules around childcare bubbles that apply to families with children under the age of 14 (as well as vulnerable adults). For full details see www.gov.uk/guidance/making-a-support-bubble-with-another-household

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