COVID: West Berkshire moves into Tier 4 as cases continue to rise

West Berkshire, along with large parts of the South East and the whole of London, has moved into Tier 4 restrictions from Sunday 20 December.

The move follows an announcement by the Prime Minister on Saturday (19 December) and means that tougher restrictions have been introduced in response to a rapidly rising level of coronavirus infections.

West Berkshire had previously been placed into Tier 3 from midnight on 19 December after an increase in cases over the last week. However, a new strain of the virus has recently emerged in the South East region which is thought to be up to 70% more infectious than the previous strain. The Government has therefore taken the decision to place local authority areas in the South East and London who are currently in Tier 3 into a new Tier 4 immediately.

Around 1 in 3 people have no symptoms, so will be spreading it without realising.

The move to Tier 4 means:

• Residents in those areas must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions. Support and childcare bubbles can still continue in Tier 4.
• Non-essential retail, indoor gyms and leisure facilities, and personal care services must close.
• People must work from home if they can, but may travel to work if this is not possible, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
• People should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.
• Individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space.
• Those in tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad apart from limited exceptions, such as for work purposes.

Christmas bubble arrangements are no longer valid. People living in Tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas, though support bubbles will remain in place for those at particular risk of loneliness or isolation. There will be no relaxation of the rules over New Year.

Detailed information about restrictions on all the tiers can be found online.

Tier 4 guidance around shielding and protecting extremely vulnerable people has also been updated.

You can also stay up-to-date on restrictions where you live using the gov.uk postcode finder.
As well as the specific restrictions outlined above, residents should continue to follow the “hands, face, space” advice to help reduce the transmission of coronavirus.

Tiers will be reviewed every two weeks with regions moving to more or less severe restrictions, or staying as they are, depending on factors such as transmission rates and how local services are coping. The next review will take place on 30 December.

We are at a tipping point in this pandemic as the number of confirmed COVID cases have increased significantly. The rate of COVID cases in West Berkshire is now 244 per 100,000 people (reported up 15 Dec 2020), an increase from the previous week of 158.4 per 100,000. Hospital admissions have also increased by around a third across the region which is also likely to have played a part in the decision to place Berkshire in Tier 4.

West Berkshire Council continues to provide support to residents and businesses who are affected by the restrictions put in place:

• People in financial hardship due to the pandemic may be eligible for financial support through the COVID Winter Grant Scheme.
• People on a low income, unable to work from home and losing income because they are required to self-isolate, may be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
Grant funding is available to businesses that have been directly affected or forced to close by Coronavirus restrictions, and some funding is available for businesses who are experiencing particular hardship due to restrictions.

The Public Protection Partnership provides advice for businesses in relation to COVID guidelines and regulations. For more information visit: https://publicprotectionpartnership.org.uk/covid-19.

Residents can find out more information about the latest advice in West Berkshire, and information about local COVID cases, on the Public Health for Berkshire website.

• The Community Support Hub is open during office hours between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Thursday, or between 8.30am and 4.30pm on Friday.

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