Last week, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, announced that both County Durham and Darlington would be placed into Tier 3 COVID-19 restrictions from midnight on Wednesday 2nd December. While I had hoped that following a 4-week national lockdown, it would have been possible for our region to be placed in Tier 2, the infection rate is unfortunately still at a level where this is not possible. While I understand yesterday’s announcement will be disappointing for many across the constituency, it is important that we all continue to follow government guidelines and help reduce the ‘R’ rate in County Durham and Darlington.
Below is a detailed description of what ‘Tier 3’ restrictions are, the government support available for ‘Tier 3’ areas and what we can do to ensure we can quickly move to ‘Tier 2’ and ‘Tier 1’ restrictions.
What are ‘Tier 3’ restrictions?
Residents in ‘Tier 3’ restrictions cannot socially interact with anyone that is not in their household or bubble. This includes in private gardens. Socialising in a public open space is restricted to 6 people and social distancing guidelines must be adhered to.
Businesses in the hospitality sector such as pubs and restaurants must only operate a takeaway service for their customers. Hotels and B&Bs must only open to those who meet the following criteria:
- An individual or family unable to return to their main residence.
- An individual who needs accommodation for the purposes of their work.
- An individual who needs accommodation for the purposes of their education.
- An individual who needs accommodation for the purposes of a women’s refuge or a vulnerable person’s refuge.
- An individual who is homeless.
Places of worship may open along with outdoor attractions, outdoor sports and exercise classes. Non-Essential shops may also open. Weddings and Funerals can go ahead with a restriction on numbers.
Residents should only travel outside the area for work, education, health or other essential reasons.
You can access the full government guidelines for ‘Tier 3’ regions at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know#very-high-alert
Financial Support for ‘Tier 3’ businesses:
The chancellor has announced additional funding to support cash grants of up to £2,100 per month for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector who have been impacted by the restrictions in very high alert level regions.
The Furlough scheme has also been extended until the end of March and offers 80% of staff wages.
The Self Employment Scheme is also open for a third round from Monday.
How County Durham and Darlington can exit ‘Tier 3’ restrictions:
In his statement to the house yesterday, the Health Secretary announced that there would be a review of the restrictions that are in place from Monday. I hope that the aforementioned review will see County Durham and Darlington moved to ‘Tier 2’ and I will be certainly be lobbying for this. I feel it is incredibly important that the government outline out a clear path and set clear goals for areas in ‘Tier 3’ and ‘Tier 2’ restrictions to work towards so that they can successfully move to a lower tier. The economic hardship that many businesses in the Sedgefield constituency will only increase the longer we remain in ‘Tier 3’, which is why the government must publish the criteria for moving to ‘Tier 2’ as soon as possible. This is why I will continue to work with the government to ensure that the action needed to be taken for County Durham and Darlington to be moved into ‘Tier 2’ restrictions is readily available and easily accessible to the Sedgefield constituents.
However, the move from ‘Tier 3’ to ‘Tier 2’ will only be possible if we begin to see our infection rate and case numbers reduce. For this to happen we must all follow the guidelines set out by the government, showing community cohesion and spirit to help suppress this virus that has had such an impact on our day to day lives. By doing this, the positive impact will be 3-fold, we will be able to hopefully move into ‘Tier 2’ restrictions, further opening our economy and helping small local businesses survive. We will protect our brilliant NHS from becoming over run, and most importantly we will save lives.
For all ‘Tier 3’ areas, a mass testing system will be made available with the help of the military. The positive impact of this has been seen in Liverpool with 1,200 asymptomatic cases being found. The infection rate in Liverpool has been greatly reduced since mass testing has been introduced in the area and I am hopeful that it will have the same impact in County Durham and Darlington.
The news in recent weeks of 3 separate vaccines proving effective gives great hope and optimism that we are beginning to move towards the end of this pandemic. I welcome the news that the NHS is ready to distribute the vaccines in large numbers as soon as they have been approved by the regulator, however until this point we must continue to do everything as a nation to suppress COVID-19 and help save lives.
If you do have any questions about the new COVID-19 restrictions in the area or any other concerns, please do contact me.