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West Berkshire's hopes for a return to Tier 1

'We’ve got a week’s worth of figures showing us moving in the right direction'

Local Democracy Reporter Nathan Hyde

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West Berkshire 'better prepared' for second lockdown

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty

THOUSANDS of people in West Berkshire were disappointed to find out they will be living under Tier 2 (high alert) restrictions after the national lockdown ends.

The Government has decided to lump the district in with every other area of Berkshire – except Slough, which is in Tier 3 – and impose the tougher restrictions, which will prevent separate households from socialising indoors from tomorrow (Wednesday).

However, those restrictions will be reviewed on December 16 and local leaders are hoping for a return to Tier 1 (medium alert).

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said: “I do think the national restrictions we’ve been living with have had an impact nationally and here in West Berkshire.

“We’re down to about 68.2 cases per 100,000.

“The other indicators we look at – things like the positivity rate and the infection rate in the over 60s – are also on a downward trend.

“But what I have been told very clearly is there has to be a sustained trend.

“We’ve got a week’s worth of figures showing us moving in the right direction and I’m hopeful that continues to be the case, so by December 16 we’ve got a real strong argument [for moving to Tier 1].”

West Berkshire’s seven-day infection rate stands at 68.2 cases per 100,000 people. Only 17 other areas of the UK have recorded lower infection rates.

It has also been falling steadily since it peaked at 128.1 cases per 100,000 people on November 14.

No serious concerns have been raised about capacity at local hospitals or the percentage of tests that are coming back positive (around four per cent) in West Berkshire.

And the Government website states there is “an improving picture” across Berkshire “with the exception of Slough and Reading”.

But health secretary Matt Hancock says most areas of the country have been moved into the top two tiers before winter to “keep people safe and to keep the gains that are being made”.

The Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are the only three areas of the country that have been placed in Tier 1.

Mrs Doherty said: “I have been told this will be reviewed fortnightly, I have been told local considerations will be taken into account and I have been told they [the Government] will look at it from a local authority perspective and not just county-wide.

“I’m as hopeful as everybody else that we see a return to Tier 1, however, I appreciate because of the surrounding areas and the movement of residents between those areas, it’s not cut and dried.”

During the pandemic, West Berkshire has recorded 1,658 confirmed cases and 139 people have died after testing positive for the virus.

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