The county council’s director of public health says an increase in Covid-19 infection rates over the past week had been the major factor in Leicestershire’s tier position remaining unchanged.
Mike Sandys said there had been a ‘resigned acceptance’ over the past 48 hours that the county was likely to stay in tier 3 – news which was confirmed by the government today (Thurs).
He said: “We can’t escape the fact that rates have gone up in the past few days.
“It’s probably the news we were expecting, but it’s still disappointing as everyone has done really well in driving down the rates."
Earlier this week, Leicester’s hospitals said they are treating more people with Covid-19 than during the first wave of the pandemic, and that is coupled with the usual winter pressures
“We’re also very aware of significant pressures on the NHS in Leicestershire – that will have been another factor behind the decision making," added Mr Sandys.
We know that being in tier 3 is very tough for residents and businesses, in particular, and we would have hoped for a different outcome when the government made its decision.
However, there is a wider acknowledgment that rates have risen over the past few days, and what we now need is a collective effort to ensure people stay safe in the run-up to Christmas and beyondPerson:Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council
There will be a further review of the tiers system by the government in two weeks' time.
The latest figures show Leicestershire's rate for every 100,000 people is 167.2 - compared to England's figure of 173.3 - emphasising the work that has been done to drive down rates.
Oadby and Wigston has the highest rate (319.2), followed by Melton (232.4), Blaby (226.5), Harborough (148.2), North West Leicestershire (130.3), Hinckley and Bosworth (129.9) and Charnwood (122.7).
The data relates to the time period – 3 to 9 December.
The data also shows that all districts, apart from Charnwood, have also seen an increase in cases over a seven-day period.
The public health director has also made a renewed plea for people to ‘think long and hard’ about plans they have when restrictions ease over the Christmas period.
Yesterday, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty urged people to keep gatherings small, not to travel too far and to avoid journeying from high-prevalence areas to low-prevalence areas.
Mike Sandys said: “I don’t want people to not have a Christmas, but I’m urging families to take a sensible approach when making any arrangements.
“Whatever families agree on after thinking long and hard about the situation, it’s vital that the national advice is followed.
“That’s around frequent hand washing, cleaning door handles and surfaces, socially distancing from anyone who do not live with, and, where possible, opening windows and doors.
“I am concerned that, after Christmas, infection rates, which are already creeping up, will continue to rise and we’ll be facing the scenario very early in the new year of more widespread community testing, particularly around ‘hot-spots’ in certain electoral wards.”
Community testing is set to get underway early next month with plans now being finalised that will see lateral flow test pop-up testing deployed in communities across Leicestershire with the highest rates.
The County Council has 16,000 new-style kits and can draw down more from the Government as required.
Last weekend, the Government announced a list of 67 tier three areas where it will roll out community testing.
Although Leicestershire is not on the list, the council has worked up its own plan without the need for Government support.