Health leaders hope Harrogate can avoid toughest Tier 3 restrictions - and 'big concerns' over Christmas rules

Health officials have expressed hope that Harrogate and the rest of North Yorkshire could avoid the toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions as the national lockdown ends next week.

By Jacob Webster
Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 2:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th November 2020, 9:44 am

Richard Webb, the county's corporate director of health and adult services, told a briefing that falling infection rates has given the region some optimism that it could escape the tightest controls set to be announced by the government today, Thursday.

However, he warned Covid cases are still ten times higher than summer and urged residents to fight down any over-optimism.

Mr Webb said: "We would hope that most of the county would be at Tier 2 - but we know some areas could be at Tier 3.

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Health officials have expressed hope that Harrogate could avoid the toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions as the national lockdown ends next week.

"Those restrictions will hopefully bring some additional freedoms and flexibilities for everyone. However, we need to remember that our care homes, hospitals and other health services are still under pressure.

"We are still seeing people dying from Covid and behind all the numbers are human stories. We need to continue to keep on trying to reduce the spread of infection and keep on being cautious - even when the lockdown is eased."

It still remains to be seen whether North Yorkshire will be treated on a county or district level under the revamped local lockdown tier system which has tougher restrictions on household mixing and hospitality businesses.

The county was under Tier 1 restrictions as it entered the national lockdown which will now end on December 2.

Local leaders have also urged people to be cautious of the risk of spreading coronavirus when rules are relaxed over Christmas.

Up to three households will be allowed to stay together and form a "Christmas bubble" from 23 to 27 December, after an agreement was reached by all four UK nations.

Mr Webb said it was a "big concern" that household mixing over the festive period could cause a third spike in cases and hospital admissions in the New Year when health services are at peak pressure.

Superintendent Mike Walker, lead for North Yorkshire Police’s Covid response, added: "We certainly can not give this virus another chance to spread and we want to start 2021 on the best footing possible.

"Any kind of social mixing carries a risk of transmission - even where it is within the rules.

"Meeting with friends and family over Christmas will absolutely be a personal judgement for individuals to take."

Harrogate's weekly infection rate has almost halved in just over two weeks with it now standing at 157 cases per 100,000 people.

That is below the national average of 207 but is still ten times higher than it was at the end of summer.

A total of 128 people in Harrogate have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test result, according to Public Health England figures.

Mr Webb added: "We can shape our own destiny and we have seen in the last week or so that by concerted effort by members of the public and agencies across the board, we have seen a reduction in the infection rate.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel and we now need to draw on all our strengths around pragmatism, patience and resilience that I know we have in huge quantities in North Yorkshire."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter