LIVE: Council leaders have their say on Northamptonshire going into Tier Two under the PM’s Covid Winter Plan

Last updated: Friday, 27 November, 2020, 15:58

  • Latest figures show number of cases falling — but still too high
  • Three more coronavirus deaths in county’s hospitals
  • Rates in some areas are still above national average
  • What’s happening in schools?

Today’s briefing is now closing. Thank you for following our live blog — and a reminder from Cllr Ian Morris that we are still in lockdown until midnight on Tuesday. 

One more question from the Chron’s Carly Odell about why the number of cases among over-60s is so high. 

Lucy Wightman says main reason is outbreaks in care homes in two boroughs and districts and community transmission. Maybe seeing bubble-related activity with grandparents helping out with childcare while people are at work.

 “We would ask that if you do have that sort of  help, please think about who else you are in contact with — age is still the greatest absolute risk of mortality for people with Covid.” 

Jonathan Nunn says juggling different numbers to decide on the tiers in a balancing act: “Our rates could come down but if our hospitals are overflowing it would be right we stay in a higher tier.”

A question regarding thresholds being set between the tiers.  Lucy Wightman admits it is “really hard” to work without any firm thresholds being set by Government and makes it difficult for the public, too. Some of the data used is objective so cannot be linked to numbers.

“When you are talking about people’s lives you cannot always count numbers.

“There are not clear numbers but there are ball park figures to aim for and it is do-able.” 

Another question from the Chron’s Carly Odell regarding last week’s news that some outpatients’ appointments being cancelled at NGH. Eileen Doyle says both hospitals are now “booking cautiously” and at the moment things are stable so that only a small number of appointments are being affected.  

Jonathan Nunn admits he feared Northamptonshire could have been put into Tier Three rather than Two.

Current lockdown has been a lot less severe than the previous one. We are still in serious, serious trouble. “Let’s keep acting like we’re in Tier Three,” is his message.

Lucy Wightman says people should not be despondent about being in Tier Two. The situation will be reviewed and it is entirely possible that Northants could be put into a lower tier before Christmas.

She adds that there are no definitive answers but need to prepare ourselves for a very difficult period after Christmas.

A question about how the police will enforce Tier Two rules on households not mixing from next Wednesday.  ACC Simon Blatchly adds: “As we have been doing all along, we rely on information from public or our partners. All officers in the UK have discretion whether to issue tickets or not. We will continue to respond accordingly.

”If people believe there are breaches, they are able to report them.”

A question from the Chron’s Carly Odell about whether it would a good idea for schools to close a week early before Christmas to allow them time to self-isolate if necessary before Christmas. Paul Andrews from the education department says the council will continue to follow the Dept of Education guidance that children should go to school. 

Alastair Ulke, from the Chronicle & Echo,  asks for council leaders response to today’s story that Lucy Wightman only found out about Northamptonshire being in tier two via the Government’s postcode checker rather than being briefed directly.   

Lucy Wightman says she does recognise how difficult it was for the Government to share information and she did get a briefing within half an hour of the announcement.

Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn says: “Everybody got told at the same time and Government has faced criticism for leaks before. Other thing is we do have time to prepare, this is something that is going to happen next week not coming in at midnight. So given those circumstances, I’m comfortable.”

First question from the press is regarding frustration for the Police having to hand out penalty notices to those not complying with Covid regulations. ACC Simon Blatchly admits: “It is frustrating because the rules are very clear and you would hope the messaging is landing now.”

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Blatchly of Northants Police says officers are continuing to enforce Covid regulations with about 100 fixed penalty notices issued in the last week.

Eileen Doyle, chief exec of Kettering General Hospital says it has been another big week for both hospitals in the county. There are 171 Covid-positive patients in hospital at Northampton and Kettering, occupying 15% of bed space.

April’s first peak of the pandemic saw 247 patients in hospital.

There are 14 Covid patients in intensive care.

Lucy Wightman shows a graph which has been published showing where Northamptonshire stands in the tier system. We are closer to tier three than tier one but “not in immediate danger” of going up to Tier Three.

There are 67 active outbreaks in the county up to Nov 22 — an outbreak is two or more cases linked by time or place — although number has reduced in the last few days and will be reflected in next week’s data.  

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Northamptonshire Telegraph