CRUNCH talks on Teesside moving to a higher tier of covid restrictions are continuing with officials saying it’s a case of “when not if”.
Correspondence seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service shows local Public Health England officials have requested the Tees Valley moves to tier three “in the next 48 hours”.
The office of Government minister Robert Jenrick confirmed receipt of the email at 11pm on Wednesday night.
The message reads: “We refer to your letter dated October 28, 2020, received at 22:58 informing us of your decision to move the Tees Valley to the Local Alert Very High (Tier 3) and your desire to implement such measures within 48 hours.”
It is understood the recommendation has been based on rising hospitalisation numbers on Teesside.
Data from the NHS dashboard showing rolling seven day covid rates between October 20 and October 26 marks Stockton as having the highest rate in the North-east with 424.1 cases per 100,000 people.
This week has also seen the highest number of covid-related deaths since May on Teesside – with a cumulative total of 10 fatalities recorded on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty met Teesside health chiefs and leaders on Wednesday to discuss a move to tier three amid rising deaths and cases in the wider North-east region.
On Thursday, Redcar MP Jacob Young told BBC Tees he believed a move from tier two to tier three was now “quite likely” within a week.
The Tory MP said: “I think because our cases are drastically rising again, those talks will be starting again in the very near future.
“I would not be surprised to see tier three restrictions coming into place within the next week or so.”
He added: “My call to the local council leaders is if we’re going into tier three, we should try and keep as many businesses open as possible.
“Particularly things like gyms and leisure centres – I don’t want to see them close if we go into tier three because we know how important they are to peoples’ mental health.”
Council leaders across the region and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen met on Thursday morning to discuss the current state of play – and a possible move to the top tier of covid restrictions on the back of the PHE recommendation.
It is expected there will be negotiations between council leaders and the Government about what a potential tier three restrictions will look like – and whether they will give the 48 hour recommendation their blessing.
Ahead of the meeting, interim Stockton Council leader Jim Beall said there still hadn’t been a direct meeting between national and local politicians about covid restrictions.
“There has not been one meeting yet between the leaders of local authorities and national politicians – it’s all been mandarins, local government officers, and health officials talking to each other,” he added.
However, another meeting between Government teams and council leaders was due to take place at about 2.30pm on Thursday to discuss the tier three recommendations.
Teesside sits in tier two of restrictions at the moment – with mixing of households not allowed indoors, and the rule of six applying to private gardens and outdoor spaces.
Tier three would see more pubs and bars close – however, the Government says restaurants and pubs that can serve “substantial meals” would be allowed to stay open.
The higher tier of restrictions would also mean no mixing or households indoors or outdoors – including in private gardens.
But you may continue to see friends and family you do not live with in groups of six or less in certain outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, public gardens and outdoor sports courts.