Explained: What do the latest figures tell us about Norfolk’s likely Covid tier?
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Coronavirus cases are falling again in Norfolk and Suffolk, but this will not be the only number civil servants pore over when deciding which tier to place the region in.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that each area of England will be put into one of three tiers, after lockdown ends of December 2, with each tier having a different level of restrictions.
At the moment we do not know the size of each tier. It is thought likely that the country will be broken into larger areas, rather than each small council area being put into a different tier.
But will Norfolk be in one tier and Suffolk another? Or, more likely, will the government opt for a more regional approach, with the whole of east England placed together?
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said that while he and his Conservative colleagues in the county hoped Norfolk would be placed in the lowest tier, the government was likely to take a “cautious approach”.
“We will see more areas in the middle tiers that perhaps we would have thought,” he said.
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A decision is expected on Thursday.
However, we do know already that when making their decisions, officials will look at coronavirus cases across all age groups, and specifically among the over-60s who are considered most at risk.
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They will also consider whether infection rates are rising or falling and the prevalence of the disease per 100,000 of population. Local pressure on the NHS will also be factored in.
From looking at the data, Norfolk and Suffolk should start off in one of the lower tiers – one or two – rather than tier three after December 2.
The most recent figures from Public Health England show that overall, Norfolk’s infection rate is falling.
The numbers, from November 11 to November 18 put the county’s rate at 120 cases per 100,000 people. That rate has been decreasing since November 13, when it peaked at 149.5.
There were 1,100 new cases in the seven days up to November 18 in the county, which is 242 fewer than the previous week. The outbreak in Wymondham also appears to be under control.
Not only is the infection rate falling, but it is far lower than the English average of 228 per 100,000.
It puts Norfolk in the bottom quarter of the country for infection rates; in 171st place out of 215 council areas.
Meanwhile in Suffolk, the rate is even lower at 79 per 100,000, putting it 197th.
There is also good news in Cambridgeshire where the infection rate is 100 per 100,000.
With all three counties in a similar position, that could tempt the government to place them together in the same tier.
The latest test and trace data up to the week ending November 11 shows 3.7pc of people over the age of 60 who took a test in Norfolk returned a positive result. That compares to 5.4pc of all people who took a test in the same period.
Although Norfolk’s percentages are behind the national trend, they have been growing since the first week of October, when only 0.8pc of over-60s were testing positive, and 1.8pc of all age groups.
Similarly, in Suffolk, 4pc of over 60s tested in the week ending November 11 returned positive results, up from 1pc at the start of October.
Hospital figures also point to the east of England being in a lower tier.
NHS England data show there were 956 patients with coronavirus in hospital beds in the region as of Monday, the lowest number of all seven NHS regions.
Although the numbers are smaller than the other areas the amount of people in beds with the virus has been rising steadily in the east of England since September.
In Norfolk, the latest data shows there were 124 virus patients in hospital beds as of November 17.
Whichever tier we end up in, the government has said it will be reviewed every 14 days, meaning we could be moved to stricter or looser restrictions later on. Overall restrictions will run to the end of March.