Following the government's discussions around tiering, Barnsley will continue to be placed in tier 3 (very high restrictions) along with the rest of South Yorkshire.
In order for us to move into a lower tier, the government will consider five criteria:
- New infection rate in all ages - South Yorkshire’s rate ranges from 143 to 234 new cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days.
- New infection rate in Over 60’s - South Yorkshire’s rate is 161 new cases per 100,000.
- Rate by which cases are rising and falling - South Yorkshire’s rate is between 8 per cent and 5 per cent when it should be below 5 per cent.
- Number admitted to hospital with Covid in the last week - South Yorkshire had 104 new cases.
- Pressure on the NHS - South Yorkshire had 632 people in hospital beds, around 1.5 times the spring peak.
I'm sure you're all aware that the overall rate of infection in Barnsley was reducing over the past few weeks. However, we are now seeing signs that the overall rate is starting to increase again, and we have been seeing increasing infection rates in those over 65 years old for the past week or so, and unfortunately, the pressure on NHS services remains high in Barnsley.
By moving out of very high restrictions, we would put our hospitals at additional risk as well as the lives of vulnerable people in Barnsley.
I understand this may be frustrating for many people, as so many have worked hard to reduce our rates. However, it is vital that we do all we can to keep the virus under control as much as possible as we have seen how quickly infections and deaths can increase.
We recognise the impact this decision will have on our hospitality industry, with this being the most profitable time of the year for local restaurants, pubs and bars. I'm also aware of the worry and anxiety it may bring for business owners, and their staff so close to Christmas. I want to reassure people working in this industry in Barnsley that additional financial support will be made available to them, we will do all that we can to help them over the coming weeks.
We have seen the positive effect your hard work has had on the rate of infections in Barnsley since the very high numbers we saw in September and October, so it is more important than ever to follow the guidance in the run-up to Christmas to help us start reducing the rates again in our vulnerable groups and to support our hospitals. Remember to regularly wash your hands, wear a face covering in public and keep a two-metre distance from people outside your household.
I would also urge you to consider your Christmas bubbles really carefully, keeping in mind elderly and vulnerable family members, and the risk of celebrating together indoors. We want everyone to have a wonderful and well-deserved Christmas after a challenging year, but we also want everybody to stay safe. Just because the regulations say you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should. I am very concerned that increased social mixing over Christmas will lead to a spike in infections, hospitalisations and sadly deaths in January, and could mean we have to stay in Tier 3 even longer.
Please remember that during this difficult time, there is mental health and wellbeing support available. In the winter months, when we may already be spending more time at home, people may be now feeling further isolated with restrictions in place and significant changes to our daily lives. If you think you need additional help with your mental health this Christmas, please find further advice and guidance at the government website, try to stay active and speak to a trusted friend, family member or GP about how you're feeling.