Blackpool should be shifted to Tier 2, says town's public health doctor

Blackpool’s public health boss wants to see the town moved into Tier 2 restrictions when the government reviews its Covid control measures on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 10:50 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 10:54 am

Along with the rest of Lancashire, the town is currently subject to the toughest Tier 3 rules, after ministers last month rejected a call from the county to impose different regulations in districts with differing infection rates at the end of the national lockdown.

Blackpool and the wider Fylde coast was - and still is - experiencing much lower coronavirus case rates than East Lancashire. When the government took a county-wide approach to the restrictions, it prompted Blackpool Council’s chief executive Neil Jack to declare: “I don’t think London understands Lancashire - they don’t understand the difference between the different parts of it.”

However, it appears that there may be more flexibility on offer when the tiering system undergoes its first reassessment.

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Where will Blackpool end up when the tiering system is reviewed?

On Monday, emergency changes to the rules in the south of England saw some county areas shifted into different tiers - and health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons that the government would consider the “human geographies” of individual areas when making its decisions this week.

Dr. Arif Rajpura, Blackpool’s director of public health, said that Tier 2 status for the resort would reflect the fact that its infection rates had fallen in recent weeks - and would “allow us to achieve a measured balance between reducing the level of infection and gradually reopening our tourism and hospitality industry in a Covid-secure way”.

"Tier 2 would provide us with the opportunity to drive cases down further whilst preventing additional damage to our local economy. We are continuing to work with businesses to ensure they are operating in a Covid-secure way.

“Our Covid taskforce, consisting of stewards and public protection officers, will be fully operational over the Christmas period, ensuring that venues are compliant with guidelines and legislation. They will be on hand to offer advice and support for all businesses that are able to open.

"With the Christmas and New Year period fast approaching, we need to continue to reduce infection levels by limiting social contact with other households, as well as washing our hands regularly, wearing face coverings where required and maintaining distance between others.

“The vaccination programme, alongside recent increased access to local testing, is cause for optimism – but we must not rest on our laurels, regardless of which tier Blackpool is in," Dr. Rajpura cautioned.

The government has said that it will take into account five criteria when assigning tiers - case rates in all age groups, case rates in the over-60s, the rate at which cases are rising or falling, the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken and pressure on the NHS, including current and projected hospital bed occupancy.

Blackpool’s rolling case rate in the week to 11th December stood at 162.5 per 100,000 people - below both the Lancashire (189.1) and England (173.3) averages - and marginally below the 168.5 recorded on 26th November when the government made its post-lockdown tiering decision.

Like almost every other area of the county, the town had achieved a lower rate than its current one in that interim period over the last three weeks - falling to 136.3 in the seven days to 3rd December. However, just a month ago, rates remained close to the 300 mark.

Meanwhile, the case rate in the over-60s was 169 per 100,000 of the population in the week to 9th December, according to Public Health England figures - slightly above the Lancashire average of 164.6

The latest data showing Blackpool's test positivity rate across age groups is expected to be published during the course of Tuesday.