Cumbria will be placed in Tier four Covid-19 restrictions, following a rapid rise in coronavirus infections in the county.
The change was announced by the Government this afternoon, following a Government review of local Covid restrictions in place across England.
Tier four restrictions will be effective from tomorrow.
They will apply to the entire county.
Many other parts of the north, including Lancashire and the north east, having also been placed under Tier four restrictions.
Announcing the new measures this afternoon, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said that “sharply rising cases, and the hospitalisations that follow, demonstrate the need to act where the virus is spreading.”
Infection rates have been rising rapidly across much of Cumbria, with Carlisle and Eden in particular currently seeing higher rates of infection than at any time previously during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result of the new restrictions, which come into effect from midnight, people in Cumbria will not be able to leave their home without a reasonable excuse for doing so.
Reasonable excuses include shopping for or collecting essentials, such as food or medicine, or going to work – when working from home is not possible.
All non-essential shops must now close, and all hospitality venues including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants must close, except for the purposes of providing food and drink for takeaway only.
Indoor leisure and sports facilities must close, and so must entertainment venues such as theatres, cinemas, cinemas and museums.
Schools and colleges will however remain open. It is the Government’s position that “it remains very important for children and young people to attend” school or college, in order to “support their wellbeing and education and help working parents and guardians”.
People can leave their homes to exercise, and communal worship is allowed to continue.
Leaving Cumbria without a work, education or emergency-related reason for doing so is not permitted.
There are a small number of other specific exceptions which would make travel outside of Cumbria sanctioned.
The introduction of Tier four restrictions in Cumbria was today welcomed by Cumbria’s director of public health, Colin Cox, given the frightening rises in infection rates seen in the county, and the resultant pressures placed on local NHS services.
He said that the seven-day infection rate in Carlisle is now more than 400 cases per 100,000 people, and in Eden it is more than 500 per 100,000.
These rising rates are now impacting on hospitals in north Cumbria, Mr Cox said, something he described as “deeply” concerning.
“The numbers of Covid-19 patients in north Cumbria’s hospitals continue to go up,” he said.
“While it’s not at the point it was at during the peak of wave one, it’s getting to that sort of level,” he said.
He added that hospitals are also “trying to cope with general winter pressures”.
“To do so at a time when you are facing Covid, is effectively like running two hospitals at once.
“You’ve effectively got a Covid hospital and a non-Covid hospital.
“It’s immensely complicated for them, and it’s deeply concerning that rates are still going up.”
A spokeswoman for the North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) NHS Trust, which runs hospital services in north Cumbria, said: “In line with the general rise in cases nationally, the trust has seen a rise in admissions to our hospitals of patients with Covid-19”.
“We urge the public to remain vigilant and follow the national guidance of hands, face, space, in order to control the spread of this deadly virus.”
Residents in north Cumbria were also urged just before Christmas by NCIC medical director Dr Rod Harpin to “do their bit to help” north Cumbria’s hospitals, and only visit accident and emergency if there is a life-threatening issue.
“For health conditions that are not life threatening please visit your GP, pharmacist or call 111,” he said.
“Health professionals are on hand on 111 every day of the week, 24 hours a day and can make sure you get the most appropriate help in a timely way.”
“We need to act now, if cases continue to increase then we will need to make some very difficult decisions to make sure that we have space and staff to treat our patients.”