Like many of you, I am hugely disappointed with the Tier 2 decision – foremost because North Norfolk continues to see some of the lowest rates of infection in the whole country.
It was to be expected that, as a constituency, North Norfolk would be part of a larger region and I am glad that, thanks to a number of pleas, we do at least have a Norfolk region and have not been absorbed into a wider East of England area. Only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly have been placed in Tier 1, having infection levels of around 70 per 100,000 and lower.
Norfolk has an infection rate of around 123 per 100,000. Suffolk (85 per 100,000) and Devon (98 per 100,000) have lower rates than us but have also been placed into Tier 2.
Clearly the government has taken a very cautious approach. What appears not to have gone in our favour is:
- The percentage of those taking tests and being positive is too high.
- The case rate in the over-60s is too high, at 100 per 100,000. This is increasing in Norwich and South Norfolk.
I will have an opportunity to discuss this with ministers later today, and to see the data on which this decision was based. I will be making the case that:
- Rates in Norfolk as a whole are decreasing - the majority of our areas are improving.
- We must consult with our Norfolk local authority and local NHS over this decision.
- We must quickly get back to local control measures which, so far, have been very effective.
- We must be able to exit from Tier 2 and return to Tier 1 as soon as possible if the infection rate continues to fall. Given the overall downward trend in infections over the past fortnight, I will be arguing strongly for the first review to take place after seven days (9th Dec), not two weeks (16th Dec).
- Businesses affected by the decision to place us in Tier 2 must be given the support they need to get through this.
The complete list of restrictions, exemptions, and details of arrangements for Christmas Day can be found on my Covid page, along with details of how to find financial and other forms of support. Norfolk County Council's hotline for those who are vulnerable or in urgent need can be contacted on 0344 800 8020. North Norfolk District Council is administering hardship funds and government grants to businesses, and can be contacted on 01263 516000.