Nothing cheerful to say here as the maps illustrate. Over the last month, the rate of detected Covid-19 cases in Shropshire has doubled. If the trend continues upwards, we could qualify Tier 2 (high alert) in a matter of days. Telford and Wrekin is going the same way. The main impact of Tier 2 will the ban on different households socialising indoors unless they are in the same support bubble. Overnight stays with a friend you don’t live with will also be outlawed.
The timing is uncertain but a move to Tier 2 looks as inevitable as it is unwelcome.
At the beginning of the week, the government declared local authority areas in England would be allocated to one of three tiers, with Tier 3 have the most restricted lockdown restrictions. Our area was allocated to Tier 1 – allowing us to continue as we are under the rule of six with 10pm chucking out time at pubs. That was good news.
But the local Covid-19 infections rates are creeping upwards as the maps above show. Over the space of four weeks, local areas in Shropshire and Telford (known as MSOAs), have gone from white on the maps to dark blue. White means there are two or fewer cases, even no cases. Dark blue is 100 to 200 cases.
There is a danger that we will be moved into Tier 2. That would mean that ban mixing indoors between different households or support bubbles, Outdoors, in public spaces and private gardens the rule of six will apply. That will isolate people, who will not be allowed to see their friends indoors unless they are in the same support bubble. It will further hit the hospitality trade as a meal out with friends will be off the menu.
There is no strict boundary between the tiers. However, briefings in recent weeks suggested that a seven day rate of 100 new cases per 100,000 people would the boundary between Tier 1 and Tier 2.
We need to get this in perspective. In Liverpool, a Tier 3 city region, the seven day infection rate is above 860 in some areas. The seven infection day rate in Shropshire has doubled in the last month to 78. If that growth rate were to continue, we’d reach Liverpool’s infection level in three months. Is that likely? I doubt it as our population is more rural and dispersed. Liverpool has a population density of 4,400 people a square kilometre. One of the reasons that Shropshire is such a great place to live is our population density is just 100 per sq km.
The system of tiers is controversial. Scientists and opposition political leaders have called for a short “circuit breaker” lockdown. I have mixed views on this. A national lockdown would send a clear message that people should take the growing infection rates seriously. It would also be admirably simple. The current system is likely to lead to areas moving between tiers adding to the confusion that has pervaded the handling of this epidemic. But a lockdown would punish rural areas with low infection rates. Should Ludlow, with an infection rate of 55, be locked down because urban areas like Liverpool has soaring rates north 600.
There might be a case for moving Shropshire along with Telford and Wrekin into Tier 2. I suspect this will happen anyway. The seven day infection rate in Shropshire has gone up from 15 to 86 over the four weeks to 11 October. We could be above 100 next week and already are in some areas. We may already be above 100 due to the lag in publication of full local data on test results.
If we move to Tier 2 we will still be able to shop, travel around and go to work. But I fear for the wellbeing of people who cannot see their friends under Tier 2. I worry for the hospitality sector. I think we are in for a long winter whatever the weather.
The Coronavirus Tiers
Tier 1 (Medium) – currently in force in Ludlow and Shropshire
- No socialising in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors (other than where a legal exemption applies to the rule of 6).
- Businesses and venues can continue to operate in a COVID-secure manner.
- Pubs and bars ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am.
- Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm if through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through.
- Schools and universities remain open.
- Places of worship remain open, subject to the rule of 6.
- Weddings are capped at 15 people and funerals at 30.
- Care home visits are a local decision.
- Exercise classes and organised sport can to take place outdoors – indoors if the rule of 6 is followed.
- Face coverings in those areas where this is mandated – all enclosed areas where the public can enter including public transport and taxis.
The government advises you should continue to follow social distancing rules and work from home where you can effectively do so. It asks people to plan ahead when travelling, plan and avoid busy times and routes. Walk or cycle if you can.
Tier 2 (High) – the future for Telford and Wrekin?
As Tier 1 except:
- No socialising with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
- No socialising in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors (other than where a legal exemption applies to the rule of 6)
- No overnight stays if it means being inside with others that aren’t in your household or support bubble.
- Age UK provides a handy list of the restrictions at each tier.
- The BBC has a look up facility allowing you find which tier an area is in.
- The government updates a map of local cases and seven day infection rates, along with summary data updated daily.
- In the graph at the head of this article, the first wave is understated due to the paucity of Covid-19 testing at theat period.