Representatives and authorities in Cornwall have welcomed the news that the county will be placed under the lowest level of coronavirus restrictions after the national lockdown ends next week in England.
The government announced today that Cornwall, together with the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight, is due to enter Tier 1 restrictions come Wednesday 2 December when the lockdown will give way to a three-tiered system of public health measures.
The news came via a new arm of the government’s website that allowed users to find out which tier their area would be placed under. The site crashed within moments, but health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the news in an address to the House of Commons.
Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said the announcement was “very welcome news”.
“This will be particularly good news for the thousands of hospitality businesses which will be able to reopen under the lowest level of restrictions,” he said.
Mr Double added that the news was “no grounds for complacency”, and urged people to abide by restrictions to stave off the risk of being placed in a higher tier. He said this was “particularly important” ahead of Christmas when three households will be allowed to meet for five days.
“Before we entered the national restrictions, Cornwall was in Tier 1 and the number of cases in Cornwall was rising and continued to rise until last week,” he said.
“Clearly the new national restrictions have had the required effect and brought the virus back under control. This shows it was the right decision to introduce these measures.”
Cornwall is the only area of mainland England to be placed under the lowest level of measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, with close to 99 of the country’s population to face tougher restrictions come after 2 December. The Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly will also enter Tier 1 restrictions. Together, the three areas make up 1.27 percent of England’s population.
Over the seven days to November 20, the incidence rate for Cornwall was 62.4 cases per 100,000 people. well below the national average.
On Thursday, the UK Government said that cases in all age groups were “stable or declining”.
There have been no cases in the Isles of Scilly in the past seven days, providing “strong evidence” for the area to be subjected to Tier 1 restrictions, the government said.
“This is the first stage of securing jobs and companies for our future,” Kim Conchie, chief executive of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, told the PA news agency.
Mr Conchie welcomed the news but cautioned that residents have to be “very careful” since the rest of mainland England remained under tougher restrictions.
He called for residents to support local businesses to ensure “a successful end to a difficult year for our hospitality, retail and services businesses.”
Councillor Dave Stewart, leader of the Isle of Wight Council, paid tribute to residents for their efforts during the four-week lockdown in England.
“Having done this so well, these are freedoms we need to fight to retain so the key messages of hands-face-space continue to apply,” Mr Stewart said.
He urged residents to take personal responsibility and make good choices to protect themselves and others, continuing to be careful about where they go and how they meet
“Although things are looking up, they can quickly change,” he said, adding: “The gradual introduction of vaccines and testing in the coming months will assist us in this challenge, but I can only urge, it is what we all do will make the biggest difference.”
People in tier 1, the “medium” alert level, will be able to socialise with others indoors and outdoors in groups of up to six people.
Businesses, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open but must stop taking orders at 10pm and close at 11pm. They may sell food for consumption off the premises through services such as home delivery, drive-through or click-and-collect.
The news was met with disappointment in neighbouring Devon, which will be placed under Tier 2 restrictions, meaning communities living across the border from Cornwall will have significantly fewer freedoms.
People in Devon will not be able to socialise with people they do not live with, while pubs and bars will have to close unless they operate as restaurants.
Pubs along the border said they were afraid they would face high numbers of visitors from Devon in search of opportunities to elude the restrictions.
Amy Newland, a landlady, told Devon Live that she had already received calls from drinkers in Devon, who asked for her pub’s opening hours next week.
Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, welcomed new freedoms in the tiered system and urged people to follow the rules to drive down transmission rates.
“It’s great news that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will all see the rules relaxed on December 2,” Ms Hernandez said, adding that the freedoms will help support local businesses.
“At the same time, it’s more important than ever that we respect these new rules and continue to drive down transmission rates, particularly in Devon which is in Tier 2,” she said.
Tiers will be reviewed in two weeks, Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Thursday.
I’m very disappointed that Devon will be in Tier 2 (High) from next Wednesday with a review 2 weeks after,” Simon Jupp, Conservative MP for East Devon, tweeted.
“I remain concerned by the pressure at the RD&E and I am in touch with the Chief Executive. Pubs, restaurants & the hospitality sector must receive enough support to survive.”
Additional reporting by PA