Ipswich avoids being placed under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions
- Credit: PA
Ipswich has avoided being placed under Tier 3 restrictions, health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.
Speaking to MPs this morning, the West Suffolk MP confirmed the county town is not included in a list of areas in the East of England entering Tier 3, and as such will remain under the "high alert" or Tier 2 restrictions.
The whole of Suffolk will remain in the same tier.
Fears had been raised by local politicians that the town could enter the highest restrictions – including by Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who has spent much of the pandemic working on the frontline.
The announcement will come as a relief to the town's hospitality industry, with pubs and restaurants having to close their doors should the town have moved up a tier.
The mixing of households in private gardens would also have been banned and would only be allowed to take place in public spaces, such as parks.
The announcement means 2,000 fans will continue to be allowed to watch Ipswich Town Football Club play at Portman Road – who play their next home match against Northampton on Boxing Day.
- 1 Man arrested after more than 80 vehicles checked on day of action
- 2 Head chef frustrated after 13 'no shows'
- 3 Delays expected at A14 Copdock Interchange
- 4 'I love it' –shoppers and retailers hope Ipswich street closure is here to stay
- 5 'Knock at the door it's... Sir Keir Starmer?' Labour leader joins Ipswich bingo night
- 6 Fire marshals to patrol Waterfront block 24/7 and balconies could be removed
- 7 Rogue trader steals money after offering to repair car
- 8 Burglars crept into Ipswich home while occupant was inside
- 9 Rubbish dumped on A14 approach road
- 10 Ipswich street closure could be made permanent under consultation plans
The town does, however, have a seven-day infection rate higher than the national average, with 283 new cases pushing the rate to 206.7 per 100,000.
Nationally, the average stands at 204.8 per 100,000.
Before the announcement, 81 of the 206 local authority areas which recorded a lower infection rate than Ipswich were in Tier 3. Among those are major cities such as Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.
Cases in the East of England are up two thirds in the last week, Mr Hancock said – and hospital admissions are up by a half.
As of yesterday, there were 239 patients with coronavirus in the county's hospitals.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he was relieved by the news, although called on people in the town to unite in following the rules to ensure this situation does not arise again.
Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council and chair of the Suffolk’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, said the county now needs to come together to ensure the Tiers do not go up by the next review.
Mr Hicks said : “Given where Suffolk was just three weeks ago, the increase in Covid-19 cases is shocking.
“It is the reality that we face however, and we must stand together and strong. Suffolk needs you now. The actions that each of us take over the coming weeks and months, ahead of the Covid vaccine being fully rolled out, will determine when we get our everyday social freedoms back.
“We have a choice. We can play our part now or live with Covid-19 for longer. We can get out of this by following the guidance, not just a little and when it suits us, but fully and always.”
Terry Baxter, chair of Ipswich Central, said he is pleased the town has not gone up a tier, although highlighted the "colossal" impact of restrictions on the hospitality sector.
Mr Baxter also praised people in the town centre for helping to secure a decline in cases in that part of the town.
Mr Baxter said:: “The local business community has worked exceptionally hard over the past 15 days to ensure Ipswich can operate as safely as possible.
"We would like to thank all businesses, their staff and local people for coming together and playing their part in helping to keep infection rates down.
"For many, the Tier 2 status means they can continue to operate their business as they have been doing since Lockdown 2.0 ended and we urge everyone to remain fully focused on staying safe, working safe and shopping local to continue supporting our local economy.
"While we are pleased to have not moved on the tier scale to tighter restrictions like some of our supporting counties, we must acknowledge that the continuation of Tier 2 remains devastating for those within the licensed trade.
"Normally their busiest time of the year, the impact this is having on the hospitality industry is colossal. The government must urgently review what support they can offer these businesses if they are to survive from this horrendous year.”
Rachel Kearton, Suffolk’s deputy chief constable and chair of the group of public sector organisations leading the fight against Covid-19 in the county, said: “Throughout this extremely difficult year, the vast majority of people in Suffolk have made great sacrifices to protect themselves, their loved ones and the NHS.
“I appreciate how hard that has been, but we must now redouble those efforts.
“We have reached a critical time for Suffolk with Christmas approaching.
“The rise in cases is very concerning and now we must rely on each other more than ever before. I urge everyone to follow the guidance all of the time. There is no room for complacency.
“Each of us is responsible for our own actions, and all of us must act responsibly if we are to look forward to a happier New Year.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said the announcement came as a relief, having feared that rates in Ipswich could have seen the whole of Suffolk placed into Tier 3.
Mr Aldous said: "I must say one did hold one's breath when the health secretary mentioned places in the East of England moving up a tier.
"I'm glad the government's definition of the East of England is different to mine.
"The government has a great balancing act to make in trying to keep the virus under control while also keeping the government as open as possible. But given the latest information, I think the government has made the right decision for this time."
He added the county needs to "continue doing what it is doing" as the vaccine rollout continues to ensure it stands a chance of entering Tier 1 in the New Year.
Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which operates Ipswich Hospital, tweeted: "Whichever tier we are in what’s important is personal behaviour.
"This is a deadly virus. Cover your face. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Ventilate your closed spaces. Save lives."