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Devon unlikely to see a return to Tier 1 before Christmas, council warns

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Councillor John Hart, the Leader of Devon County Council and Chair of Devon’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, and Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon (Designate) are warning that it is unlikely that Devon will see a return to Tier 1 before Christmas.

The comment comes ahead of the government’s review next week of the national tier allocations, and the possibility that some areas in the country could see their current restrictions loosen or tighten further.

Photo of Councillor John Hart
Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council

Councillor Hart said:

“As much as I would like to see restrictions lifted a little in order to support our local tourism and hospitality industry, I fear case numbers are not yet coming down sufficiently to warrant a move to Tier 1.

“In particular, there is still real concern about positivity rates among older people and the pressure this could put on local hospitals.

“I fully recognise that there is a very fine and difficult balance to strike between lives and livelihoods here in Devon.

“If we are to stay in Tier 2 then I would like to see more support from the government for our hard pressed local businesses, and the hospitality trade in particular.

“I would like to thank all of our local businesses, and the residents of Devon, for their determination in helping to curb the spread of coronavirus, and I urge all of us, to keep up our efforts.”

Positive case numbers have declined in most age groups across the county following the recent lockdown, but the decline has slowed.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon (Designate)
Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon (Designate)

“We are still concerned about positivity rates among older people, and those in care homes, where we’re seeing most cases being asymptomatic,” said Steve Brown.

“The decline in cases that we have seen in recent weeks has started to slow down and numbers are stabilising.  We know, from our previous experience in Tier 1, that restrictions at that time did not stop our case numbers rising.  I therefore do not believe that we are seeing a sufficient drop in cases yet for the government to decide that Devon should be in Tier 1.

“The start of the vaccination programme is good news, but is not a signal to lower our guard – the virus is still in our communities and will remain so for some months to come.”

Both he and Cllr Hart have issued stark warnings.

“Please continue to use common sense and do not let your guard down now or over the Christmas period or we will pay a heavy price in the New Year,” said Steve Brown.

Cllr Hart said: “While there will be the relaxation of tier restrictions between 23 and 27 December to enable families to get together for Christmas, we must all make sure we continue to make the right choices and do not drop our guard, otherwise we face the inevitable prospect of tighter restrictions needed if numbers start to rise again in January.”