Four Hertfordshire districts move to Tier 3

Picture: Watford Borough Council.

The government has announced that four areas of South Hertfordshire, are moving to Tier 3 (Very High) of the COVID-19 alert level system. Tougher restrictions will now be introduced for Broxbourne, Watford, Hertsmere and Three Rivers from midnight on Wednesday (16th December). The rest of Hertfordshire currently remains in Tier 2 (High Alert Level), however this is set to be reviewed.

New measures under Tier 3 include:

  • No mixing of households indoors or most outdoor places, apart from support bubbles.
  • A maximum of six in some outdoor public spaces (for example parks, public gardens), but not in people’s gardens.
  • Hospitality is closed with the exception of takeaway, drive-through or delivery sales.
  • Indoor entertainment venues including bowling alleys and cinemas, will now also close.
  • People should avoid travelling outside of their area other than where necessary, such as for work or education.
  • Shops, gyms and personal care services (for instance hairdressing), can remain open.

On Monday, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, revealed to MPs how ‘a new variant of coronavirus’ had been ‘identified’ within the ‘last few days.’ Over 1000 cases were found ‘predominately in the South of England,’ across 60 local authorities. Mr Hancock emphasised ‘at this point’ there was ‘nothing to suggest’ the new mutation caused ‘serious illness,’ or would ‘fail to respond’ to vaccines.

How has the County Council reacted to the decision?

Following the announcement, David Williams, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), said:

“We recognise the concerns that this escalation will prompt with both residents and businesses, and the additional restrictions and tougher rules that this involves. The government has taken this decision in response to the very significant increase in case numbers across the county and due to the proximity of these four district areas to north London and Essex, where infection rates have also been growing significantly.

In recent weeks we have been stressing the crucial importance of everyone in Hertfordshire following the rules and guidance around social contact and distancing, wearing face-coverings when required and washing your hands regularly. The message remains clear – we must all stay disciplined and stick to the guidance and rules if we are to improve the situation in Hertfordshire.”

Mr Williams added ‘we must all now redouble these efforts,’ especially when planning for how to ‘follow the rules’ during the festive season. This includes ‘guidance’ on the formation of Christmas bubbles. He continued by stating individuals should ‘keep playing’ their ‘part to help reduce’ case numbers, and ‘ultimately work towards returning to the type of lives we enjoyed before the pandemic.’

The HCC Leader went on to say:

“We are developing plans to significantly increase testing capacities across the county to try and identify more people who may be COVID-positive, but asymptomatic and therefore inadvertently spreading the virus. We are also very pleased to see the start of the rollout of the vaccine; this is hugely significant in the battle to prevent the virus from circulating. However, we must not let our guard down and become complacent as a result of these developments.”

What is the response from the local authorities affected?

Leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, Councillor Morris Bright MBE, said the decision was ‘a blow for residents and businesses.’ In particular, those based within the ‘hospitality industry.’ Councillor Morris explained the local authority will ‘work hard to maintain’ services, and ‘keep... residents informed about any changes.’

He continued:

“We must do what it takes to protect our families and our community, and that includes following rules around social distancing; washing your hands for longer and more frequently; wearing a face-covering where appropriate and only meeting people from outside your household, in open, public settings and in groups of no more than six. I want to say a huge thank you to all our residents and businesses across the borough who have worked so hard to keep everyone safe. With Hannukah this week and the Christmas and New Year period around the corner, we must do all we can to stop the spread of this infection now.” 

Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, noted the town had ‘unfortunately’ seen ‘a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 cases’ during the last two weeks. He further stated that while ‘nobody wanted to see Watford enter Tier 3,’ the ‘big increase in cases’ within ‘Watford and across South Hertfordshire’ could not be ignored. ‘Action’ was therefore ‘needed to bring’ numbers ‘down.’ While the vaccine offers ‘hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel,’ the Mayor stressed people should ‘do all’ they can ‘to stop the virus’ from spreading and ‘save lives.’ He warned now was ‘not the time to let our guard down,’ and everyone could ‘make a difference,’ if they pulled ‘together as a community.’

Councillor Sarah Nelmes, Leader of Three Rivers District Council, commented that ‘while infection rates’ were ‘lower’ in comparison ‘to some other areas’, coronavirus did not ‘respect administrative boundaries.’ Furthermore, residents needed ‘to work together’ to ‘keep the virus under control.’

She added:

"This will be very disappointing to some residents and especially businesses in the hospitality sector, which were hoping to get back to a position that is closer to normal. But right now it is essential that we focus on bringing the transmission rate down as soon as we can and keeping everyone safe. I want to thank everyone for all they are doing by washing their hands, covering their face and social distancing, but ask that we redouble our efforts to protect each other, our loved ones and the NHS.”

The new COVID-19 marshals introduced by Watford Borough Council last week. Picture: Watford Borough Council. 

Last week, new COVID-19 marshals were introduced in Watford and Three Rivers to help residents and businesses stay safe. Their role is to make sure that members of the public are adhering to guidelines surrounding social distancing and face-coverings. 

COVID-19 data across South-West Hertfordshire:

According to Public Health England, the latest R number for the East of England is between 0.9 to 1.1. The number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the population for the week ending 9th December was as follows:

South-West Hertfordshire Council Region

Number of cases per 100,000 people, in the week ending 9th December

Number of cases per 100,000 people, for the previous week (2nd December)

Watford

        

272.3

        

182.2

Three Rivers

 

159.7

        

128.6

Hertsmere

        

237.3

        

147.7

St Albans

        

130.7

        

103.7

Dacorum

        

164.1

        

103.4

Source: UK Government.

For further information on Tier 3 restrictions visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-3-very-high-alert 

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