A move from tier 2 to tier 3 for North Yorkshire is “on the cards”, a senior council chief has warned this evening.
Richard Webb, North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director for health and adult services, spoke to Richmondshire Today as NHS and council officials work to contain a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in areas of the county.
The updated figures show there were 291 positive cases per 100,000 people in Hambleton over a seven-day period, including more than 50 cases on Christmas Day.
However, officials have also identified a large number of cases in the Hutton Rudby area.
Mr Webb said it was believed these were “community spread” cases, rather than from a single location such as a place of work.
Council chiefs believe residents may have caught the virus when travelling to more densely populated areas prior to Christmas, including tier 3 areas such as Teesside.
It is thought another possible cause could be people from outside the district coming to Hambleton to visit the area’s pubs, which were allowed to stay open because the county is currently in tier 2.
The latest data also shows a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Richmondshire, with the seven-day rate now standing at 221 per 100,000 people — the second highest rate behind Hambleton in the county.
Mr Webb said that although there had been no confirmed cases of the more virulent strain of the virus, it was being assumed it was already present in the county.
“We’re assuming it’s out there,” said the council chief.
“We are asking people to be really careful — we’re saying people should be twice as careful as before because this strain is spreading twice as fast.
“You can live in somewhere which is relatively rural like Hambleton and yet still catch the virus.”
The Government is meeting today to discuss potential changes to the tier system, as well as calls for schools to remain closed next month.
An announcement on changes is then expected tomorrow.
Mr Webb said he would “not be surprised” if North Yorkshire went into tier 3.
“I think it’s on the cards,” he added.
“I think the national mood music is that they want to see greater consistency with the tiers and could mean stricter restrictions in North Yorkshire.”
Although North Yorkshire as a whole has a rate of 166 cases per 100,000 people areas such as Hambleton have a higher rate that level three area such as Redcar and Middlesbrough, Mr Webb pointed out.
A move to tier 3 would mean more stringent restrictions for the county’s hospitality businesses, with pubs and restaurants only allowed to offer takeaways.
Under tier 3 restrictions, people must not meet anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space.
The “rule of six” applies in open public spaces such as parks and beaches.