Newcastle health boss ‘can’t predict’ if North East has any chance of escaping Level 3 before Christmas

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Newcastle’s public health chief says he “can’t predict” if the North East has a chance to escape Level 3 before Christmas. It was confirmed on Thursday that the entire region would be plunged into the strictest category of local Covid measures after the lockdown ended on December 2 – meaning pubs, restaurants and places of entertainment cannot reopen.

And while infection rates have dropped significantly here after an initial spike at the start of the lockdown and a review of the new rules is expected by December 16, MPs have reportedly been told that Level 3 will likely remain in place. here until January.

Professor Eugene Milne, Newcastle’s director of public health, said it was unclear how close the North East was to entering Level 2, even though ‘things are going pretty well in the right direction direction ”- without a set of criteria defined for each level published by the government.

He added: “I read the story that MPs were told that things probably wouldn’t change until January. I didn’t hear anything about it directly.

“There will be a review for the 16th, but I can’t predict if we will be at a level that will be considered Tier 2 at this point.

“Before the foreclosure, when we were at the plateau that was there at the time, we couldn’t lower rates.

“I would be delighted that when we move up to level 2 we have other mechanisms in place to help us stay at that level and bring things down even more.

“The more we can get low rates, the better our record will be. But without knowing what the government’s thresholds are likely to be, it’s hard to say whether we’ll be in this territory or not. ”

Nick Forbes, the city’s Labor leader, also called on ministers to publish clear criteria for placing areas in the different levels – after criticizing that some areas in the north appeared to be unfairly targeted.

Parts of Northumberland, for example, will be forced to upgrade to level 3 despite having an infection rate up to 15 times lower than London, which is going to level 2.

Responding to the anger and confusion felt by many, especially in the rural and sparse parts of the North East, Prof Milne said it was “important that we act together” and that even where the rates of Covid are low, it only takes a little slippage to cause a serious epidemic.

The health official added: “It would be very helpful to know what levels they are [government] are looking.

“They are clearly looking at the overall rate, the rate among those over 60 and how fast the rates are rising or falling, the strain on hospitals and the proportion of tests that come back positive.

“If you look at these, all are going pretty well – except for the number of positive tests, which is still around 11% for Newcastle and the North East. This is still much higher than Liverpool, which has fallen to 3 or 3.5%. ”

Asked whether the new level 3 measures, which are more stringent than those seen in the old multi-level system of local measures, would reduce infection rates, he said: “I am inclined to to agree with the chief medical officer, who from the start of the first level indicated that the base level of level 3 would not be enough on its own and that, therefore, this stricter diet is likely to have more impact.

“I think by going through the lockdown ahead of time and then going to level 3, we put ourselves in a better position to control things.”

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