THE New Forest and Christchurch will move into the toughest coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow (Thursday) amid rising rates and mutant strains.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons the areas would be upgraded to Tier 4 as he announced that as of this afternoon (Wednesday) there were 21,000 people in hospital with Covid-19 around the country.
“We have had to take some difficult decisions because the NHS is under significant pressure,” he said. “The threat to life from this virus is real, and the pressure on the NHS is real too.”
He said the new rules meant three-quarters of the UK would be in Tier 4 from New Year’s Eve and “almost all” of the UK in at least Tier 3.
Currently Christchurch, as part of the BCP Council, area was in Tier 2 ad the New Forest was in Tier 3.
“I know this places a significant burden on all of those people and also on the businesses that are affected,” Mr Hancock said. “But I’m afraid it’s absolutely necessary based on the numbers of cases we have seen.”
Tier 4 regulations instruct everyone to stay at home, which means residents must not leave or be outside their homes except where they have a specific purpose or a “reasonable excuse”.
Exceptions include work where people cannot do so from home, education and childcare, and essential activities such as shopping for food or medicine, and for exercise.
Where people are going out for valid reasons, they should try to stay local as much as possible and avoid travelling out of their town or village.
The government advises people to plan their journey, walk and cycle wherever possible and if using public transport try to avoid busy times and routes. Avoid car-sharing with people not in the same household or support bubble, it adds.
Full details of Tier 4 restrictions are available online at www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home
Sam Crowe, director of public health for BCP council, said the number of positive cases in the area had “risen significantly over the last week” and Tier 2 measures were “just not enough”.
He added: “Our infection rates have risen in people over the age of 60 which is putting increased pressure on already stretched NHS services. Making sacrifices now means we could prevent an even larger spike in January.”
In the Commons Mr Hancock summed it up as a “day of mixed emotions”, referencing the news early today that the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine had been approved.
Purchases of that by the government plus millions of doses of the already approved Pfizer vaccine meant the UK would have access to 100-millions vaccinations, he said, and every adult person who wanted a vaccine should get one at some point in 2021.
He added: “We should be proud Britain is the first country in the world to approve a British vaccine. We should feel sorrow at the deaths and the suffering and a determination that we must all stick at it during the difficult winter weeks ahead.”
He reaffirmed his belief the “vaccines are the route out of this crisis” and said the new vaccine represented “a great stride forward out of the pandemic and onto a normal life”.