Covid crackdown: Will Harrogate move into higher tier this week when Boris Johnson announces new rules
Harrogate residents and businesses are facing an anxious wait this week to discover which tier of Covid restrictions they will find themselves under once lockdown ends next week.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to unveil a new tougher tier system today to replace the national lockdown in England which comes to an end next Wednesday, December 2, though he is not expected to say which areas will move into which tier.
The Government has already hinted that the new tier system will be tougher than the existing one after pressure from health and science experts who say it has not been effective enough in countering the virus.
But it has also hinted there may be some relaxation of the rules at Christmas and that there will be a boost for businesses in some ways in the new system.
When North Yorkshire entered the national lockdown it had been under the rules of tier 1, which allows non-essential shops to open, as well as bars and restaurants, though there was a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and a ban on most gatherings of more than six people.
Tier three, in contrast, banned social mixing both indoors and in private gardens, while pubs and bars were told to close unless they could operate as a restaurant.
Harrogate businesses are naturally anxious to make up their losses this year by opening over the festive period in a Covid-safe way and are keen for the district to remain in tier one.
One independent shop owner Sophie Hartley of Sophie Likes on Beulah Street said being closed at this time of year was a major headache even though she was attempting to boost takings online.
Sophie said: “Having to close a gift shop at this time of year isn’t ideal.
"November is usually our busiest month of the year so we were gearing up for that and then the rug was pulled from underneath our feet.
"We have spent the time we now have being closed by developing our social media presence on Instagram and Facebook and trying to get most of our Christmas stock available to buy online."
However, North Yorkshire’s director of public health, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, has already said the lowest level of restrictions “didn’t really work” well enough to keep infections under control.
Richard Webb, the county’s corporate director of health and adult services, said: “We need resolution and determination to keep to the rules, reduce the spread of infection and give us the best chance for some kind of a normal Christmas.
“At this stage it is too early to predict what the situation may be. Some of the figures that we are still seeing would indicate we could have a higher level of restrictions unless we really crackdown together.
Coronvirus figures in the Harrogate district are now falling but that does not necessarily spell good news this week.
Boris Johnson has previously suggested whole regions will face the same restrictions rather than individual towns or cities.
Already politicians in counties such as Northumberland are calling for this very thing to happen, though the Government is also facing a potential revolt from a large number of Conservative MPs unhappy with lockdown who may vote against any tiered system of coronavirus restrictions in the House of Commons later this week.
North Yorkshire entered the national lockdown under Tier 1, however, the county’s director of public health, Dr Lincoln Sargeant, said the lowest level of restrictions “didn’t really work” well enough to keep infections under control.
“It didn’t give the public a sense of the seriousness of the situation,” he said.
“We are hopefully beginning to see - particularly in the data around hospitalisations - perhaps the start of a plateauing. We expect the effect of the lockdown beginning to show this week into next, but there is some suggestion we might be levelling off.”
Dr Sargeant also warned people are more likely to catch coronavirus from family rather than strangers.
He said it is close contacts - often during gatherings of beloved friends and family - that is driving the spread of the virus.
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