'Real concern' at Ipswich coronavirus infection rate ahead of tier system review

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said people needed to be sensible when meeting

Suffolk's public health chief Stuart Keeble has warned Ipswich - and the entire county - could be placed into Tier 3 - Credit: Archant

Suffolk's public health chief has warned Ipswich could enter Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions should a rise in cases not be stopped.

Stuart Keeble, director of Public Health for Suffolk, made the comments after the seven-day infection rate in Ipswich rose to almost 200 cases per 100,000.

Figures as high as that, as seen on Monday during health secretary Matt Hancock's emergency announcement, are high enough to warrant tougher restrictions being enforced.

A review of the current tiers is set to take place in Whitehall on Wednesday.

Mr Keeble said he is "really concerned" by the figures and that behaviours must change immediately to stop the spread of the virus.

He said: “Cases are rising most prominently in Ipswich, and there are increases in many other areas of Suffolk too. It is all our responsibility to stop the spread of the virus now or some, or all, of the county could find itself in Tier 3.

“Though the rollout of vaccinations is a light at the end of the tunnel, I want people to ask themselves ‘Is it worth taking risks right now and putting our loved ones in direct danger?’"

Mr Keeble added the situation cannot be pinned on outbreaks in settings such as schools or nursing homes and said people may face difficult decisions over whether to spend time with their love ones at Christmas.

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He said: “The answer may not be a comfortable one for many. It will mean making tough, emotional choices in the coming weeks and not seeing friends or family for a while longer.

"Just because we can see others, doesn’t mean it is the safest thing to do. Making this sacrifice now might be the best gift we can give to each other, and stop the virus moving from person to person.

“Ultimately, we can stop the virus spreading by limiting our contact with other people outside our household, keeping our distance from each other, wearing a mask and washing our hands regularly.”

Shoppers are welcomed back to the Ipswich during the first day out of the second national lockdown. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Concerns have been raised over the infection rate in Ipswich, which is higher than the national average - Credit: Charlotte Bond

According to the latest coronavirus infection rate statistics, which cover the seven days to December 11, the town has a higher rate of cases than many areas currently under the toughest restrictions at 198.7 per 100,000.

For example, Maldon, one of the areas announced as entering Tier 3 by Matt Hancock on Monday, had at the time recorded a rate of 186.4 infections per 100,000 – lower than Ipswich's figure.

Other Tier 3 areas which had shown high rates – notably in the midlands and the north – are now recording lower figures than in Ipswich. Most notably this includes Nottingham, which now has a rate of 161.3 per 100,000 and Hull, which recorded a rate of 190.5.

The rates do come, however, after the areas have endured time under Tier 3 restrictions, and as such are lower than they were. When it was announced Nottingham would be entering Tier 3 again after the November national lockdown, it had a rate of 203.1 per 100,000.

Ipswich Borough Council declined to comment on the rising cases, although it, had previously issued an alert last month calling on people to "fight this upward trend".

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt hopes there will be more support for the hospitality sector if Suffolk ends up in Tier 2. Picture...

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said the town has to be open to the possibility it may enter Tier 3 - Credit: Archant

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he agrees there is an unfortunate possibility that the town could be moved into Tier 3 and called for the "small minority" of people ignoring the rules to act.

Mr Hunt said: "Cases have been increasing in Ipswich despite the fact we had all hoped we could reverse the upward trend.

"What is most concerning is the rates of infection among the over-55s, as they are the demographic most vulnerable and the most likely to end up in hospital. What the government will take into account is the pressure on our local NHS.

"I don't think anything could be ruled out, but I am concerned by the increases we have seen in Ipswich. I hope we can avoid moving into Tier 3 as it would be a big blow, especially as we were not far off being in Tier 1 last time.

"To not only miss out on going into Tier 1, but to go into Tier 3, it is the last thing anybody could want. With the cases rising as they are I think Tier 1 is off the agenda.

"If the government will treat Suffolk as one then I think it is unlikely Ipswich will end up in Tier 3, but if they are going to treat areas of the county differently then I think we need to be open to the possibility of us moving into Tier 3."

Two other Suffolk MPs, Dr Dan Poulter and Peter Aldous, said, however, that while they remain concerned at the rises in Ipswich, solely moving it into Tier 3 would be unlikely.

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