In an announcement in the House of Commons today (December 17), Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the city and county will remain at Level 3 and not drop to Level 2.
This follows calls from city and county public health directors to keep the zone at Level 3 until January due to the ‘worrying’ rise in infection rates, including in the over-60s. , and the pressure on local NHS services.
However, it will be a big boost for businesses that were hoping to open before Christmas for much-needed trade.
This includes pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, bowling alleys and hotels.
It also means that there will be no return of sporting events and live entertainment for up to 2,000 people.
Some bars, pubs and restaurants offer take-out services in an attempt to keep the pace of business going – all of which is allowed at level 3.
Derbyshire MPs had called for at least parts of the county to be placed at Level 2 to give businesses a chance to survive the holiday season – usually when many see an increase in the custom.
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It also means that households still cannot meet people from other households indoors and in most outdoor places except public places such as parks and keeping the rule of six.
Mr Hancock said this afternoon: “As we move into the colder months we need to be vigilant. We must continue to remove this virus, it is everyone’s business.
“Especially with the vaccine here, we have to be careful. We’ve come so far that we don’t have to blow it up now. No one wants tighter restrictions longer than necessary.
“This is a time when we act with caution. I know level 3 steps are tough, but the best way for everyone to get rid of them is to do everything, not just follow the rules.
“In most places we are not quite there yet and the pressures remain.
“We are able to move some areas to a lower level (Bristol and North Somerset to level 2, Herefordshire to level 2). For the vast majority of level 3 places, we are not changing our decision today.
“I want to thank everyone for doing what they are doing. The vaccine promises a great year ahead, but we have to keep doing what we’re doing.
“This includes personal responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus.”
The next review of the tiered restrictions will take place between Christmas and New Years on Wednesday, December 30.
By then, restrictions will be eased from December 23 to 27 for exclusive Christmas bubbles between up to three households.
Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, alongside Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, urged people not to view the three household allowances as a target.
They stressed that people should keep their Christmas mix short, small, and local – with advice not to travel between high and low infection areas – and “use extreme caution.”
City and county public health chiefs say the next review will be too soon to reduce restrictions after Christmas, after which a further rise in infections is expected.
That impact won’t really become visible until mid-January, they say.
Derby and Derbyshire were plunged into ‘very high alert’ Level 3 measures immediately after the country’s second lockdown ended on December 2.
Prior to that, the county as a whole had spent less than a week in the then Level 2 measures, with some areas spending more than two weeks in those restrictions.
County politicians, including Cllr Baris Lewis, Head of Derbyshire County Council, have hailed the rollout of the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid vaccine and rapid community testing – from December 21 – as the path to Level 2 and even level 1.
On December 15, Dean Wallace, county council director of public health, denied that the rapid tests were some sort of “quick fix” and will not get the region “out of jail.”
He said it would be an additional tool alongside the majority of people who would follow advice on social distancing, face covers and good hand hygiene, as well as effective contact tracing and vaccine deployment – the all at the same time.
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Since the second lockdown was eased, Covid infections in Derbyshire have increased by more than a quarter, following a rapid and steady reduction in November.
In recent weeks, infections in Derby have increased by 46 percent (196 per 100,000), while rates in Bolsover (241 per 100,000) and southern Derbyshire (253 per 100,000) have rapidly doubled and are significantly higher than the national average.
Meanwhile, rates in Chesterfield, the Dales, Erewash and to some extent in northeast Derbyshire are holding at roughly the same levels of infections.
The number of patients hospitalized at Covid-19 hospital in the county has also started to rise again after a period of decline.
On Monday, December 14, the number of Covid-19 patients at Derby University Hospitals and the Burton NHS Foundation Trust surpassed the level seen during the first peak of the virus in April.