At one minute past midnight on Saturday, the whole of Oxfordshire will move into the top tier of coronavirus restrictions.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced millions more people in the East, South East and parts of the South West of England will be placed in Tier 4 to battle the growing number of coronavirus cases.
In the last government announcement, most of the south of England was moved from Tier 3 to a new Tier 4 while Oxfordshire remained in Tier 2.
At the press briefing Matt Hancock said the variant coronavirus was spreading at a “dangerous rate” as he announced the fresh Tier 4 restrictions.
The new tier was initially announced on Saturday and from Boxing Day many more will be living under the toughest restrictions.
The latest COVID-19 data shows the infection rate in Oxfordshire is 237 per 100,000 of the population, an 86% increase over the past week.
The Department of Health said there were particular concerns over the case rates of people aged over 60 in Oxford, which were up over 100% to 212 per 100,000 per week.
Hospital admissions with Covid-19 were rising in the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West NHS, with occupancy at the national average but also increasing.
On Boxing Day, Oxfordshire will move to Tier 4 restrictions. I share my constituents' disappointment but the case rate in #Cherwell is concerning. My full thoughts are here: https://t.co/JEzGP668rY. #banbury #bicester #northoxfordshire #tier4 pic.twitter.com/MmQZDoSmpc— Victoria Prentis (@VictoriaPrentis) December 23, 2020
Areas moving to the toughest Tier 4 – where there is a stay at home order are:
- Parts of Essex currently not in Tier 4
- Waverley in Surrey
- Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “We are in a very serious situation, which means that people are once again being told to stay at home.
”The new variant of COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly and these rules are being applied for our own safety and protection. The numbers of cases across the county have risen very steeply and we have also seen sharp rises in hospital admissions.
“When we compare our current situation with that of just a few weeks ago, we can clearly see how quickly things can change and how aggressively the virus can spread if we let our guard down even by a fraction.
“We have seen during 2020 that this virus thrives on human contact. That seems to be even more the case with the new variant, which is 70% more transmissible and is increasingly becoming the dominant strain across the country.
“Tier 4 is a stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant. Unless we all take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks, we risk creating a situation in the early weeks of 2021 that will see further steep rises in the number of cases at exactly the time of year when viruses thrive.
”This means putting even more pressure on our NHS at its busiest time of year.”
The new restrictions also mean fans won't be able to attend the Oxford United Boxing Day match against AFC Wimbledon.
The COVID vaccine has started to be rolled out to the over 80s and health and care staff across Oxfordshire.
Ansaf added that it would be ‘some way into 2021 before this begins to provide protection to larger numbers of the population and make a material difference to the overall situation.’
The County Council is advising people to think carefully about the risks and only form a Christmas bubble ‘if you feel you absolutely need to and wherever possible, discuss alternatives to meeting up in person.’
Oxfordshire will remain in Tier 2 for Christmas Day.
Under Tier 2 restrictions, you may see a maximum of two other households indoors on Christmas Day only.
You cannot see anyone from a Tier 4 area, unless they are part of your already existing support bubble.