BUSINESSES in the New Forest have been dealt a “hammer blow” by the area being put under Tier 3 Covid restrictions, it has been warned.
The district’s two MPs have also lamented the decision by their own party to bump up restrictions, which was announced yesterday (Wednesday) by health minister Matt Hancock amid rising infection rates.
The New Forest’s Tier 3 status comes amid its current case rate of 93.8 per 100,000 – making it the 30th lowest local authority area in the country – and 169 fresh cases reported in the district in the last seven days. The rest of Hampshire meanwhile, has been placed into Tier 4.
However, BCP and Dorset councils’ areas, which includes Christchurch, will remain in Tier 2 – despite a higher case rate, which stands at 145.7, with weekly new cases reaching 576. The average case rate in England is 304.2. Across the Hampshire County Council area it is 178.6.
Both New Forest MPs slammed the decision, with Sir Desmond Swayne, who represents the West constituency, describing himself as “appalled”. A vocal lockdown sceptic, Sir Desmond added: “The economic consequences are so much greater than the threat to our health.”
New Forest East Tory Dr Julian Lewis noted Hampshire County Council comparative data showed there were fewer weekly overall deaths between this year and 2019, between late October and early December. It was “deeply disappointing” to get further restrictions, he stressed.
New Forest Business Partnership chairman Matthew Lawson also hit out, remarking: “The announcements will be another hammer blow to New Forest businesses.”
It was “particularly challenging” for hospitality businesses and their suppliers, he said, adding: “Once again our hotels and B&Bs, pubs and restaurants, tea rooms and cafes are closed – other than for limited takeaway and delivery.
“Please support them in any way you can before they close on Saturday and also by buying gift vouchers, postponing rather than cancelling bookings and not asking for refunds. Now is the time for us all to shop local and support our local economy.”
Hampshire County Council leader Cllr Keith Mans said the government had made the right decision, as it reflected “rapidly rising infection rates across our county and the impact on local hospitals”.
He added: “We must continue to work together, follow the rules for our tiers and protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities, especially with the threat of a new Covid-19 variant spreading much faster in Tier 4 areas and the ongoing rise in transmission in general across the country.”
In determining tiers, the government looks into factors including headline infection rates, the infection rate in older people, impact on the care sector and pressure on local hospitals.
Tier 3 means the New Forest will be officially designated as a “very high alert” area, and new, tighter restrictions apply.
They prevent people meeting with anyone socially outdoors or indoors they do not live with or is not part of their support bubble, unless a legal exemption applies.
However, you can see friends and family you do not live with – or do not have a support bubble with – in some outdoor public places, in a group of up to six.
Those places include parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests, public gardens, allotments, outdoor sports courts and facilities and playgrounds.
In terms of support and childcare bubbles, people can form a support bubble with another household if they are the only adult in their household or an under-18 living alone.
They can also do so if they live with someone who requires continuous care and there is no other adult living in the household, a child under one or a child under five with a disability.
Further exemptions apply that can allow people to meet in larger groups in public. They are listed on the government website at www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-3-very-high-alert
BCP Council’s portfolio member for Covid resilience and health, Cllr Nicola Greene, sounded a warning to residents in its area. “Not changing tier does not mean we can be complacent.
“It means we must continue making the efforts needed to contain the virus and protect the lives of those we care about, and ourselves,” she said. “Coronavirus continues to spread in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.”