Oxford City Moves into Tier 2 restrictions

Covid-19 News Local News News University News

– Oxford will be moving into higher alert (Tier 2) for coronavirus. Oxford City Council announced that as of Saturday 31 October at 12:01 am, Oxford will be under Tier 2 restrictions.

– The key difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 restrictions is that Tier 2 restricts socialising indoors with people outside your support bubble. Oxford City Council guidelines state: “You must not meet socially with anyone you don’t live within an indoor setting unless they are in your support bubble.”

– Overnight stays are only allowed from those in your household or support bubble. Universities, like colleges, schools and places of worship, remain open.

TIER 2 Live Blog: 

Individual statements from Colleges will be announced as and when they are received. If you would like to send us your college’s statement, please email [email protected]

Updated 16:10: St Anne’s College tells students: “We are grateful to you all for your efforts in controlling the spread, but please recognise that these restrictions have been imposed as a result of elevated levels of infection in Oxford City as a whole, so it is important that we do not act irresponsibly in hours before midnight tomorrow.”

Updated 16:07: Cambridge University reported 157 positive cases between 19-25rd October

Updated 16:03: Oxford Brookes has announced it had nearly 60 new cases of Covid-19 last week, but no ‘locked down’ halls of residence.

In the seven days up to October 23, the university had 58 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The University said that 54 of those cases were students, with the other four being members of staff, and of those 58 people, 52 lived in Oxford, while three in other districts in Oxfordshire and two in areas outside of Oxfordshire.

Updated 15:54: Cases per 100,000 are 151.5 in Cherwell, 92.2 in South Oxfordshire, 91.2 in Vale of White Horse and 109.4 in West Oxfordshire. Rates per 100,000 in Oxford rose to 137.1 for the week ending 23 October. For Oxfordshire as a whole, the rate was 117.5 for the same period.

Requests to move the entire county, and not just the city, into Tier 2 had the full backing of the leaders of all six local authorities and the chief executives of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP).

Updated 15:48: Full list of areas going into Tier 2 alongside Oxford City:

Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, North and northeast Lincolnshire, Dudley, Staffordshire, Telford and the Wrekin, Amber Valley, Bolsover, Derbyshire Dales, Derby, South Derbyshire, High Peak, Charnwood, Luton

Updated 15:41: School of Archaeology emails its students: “Whilst the University (and the School of Archaeology) will continue to remain open and operating in accordance with Stage 2 of its Business Continuity Planning, we do encourage everyone to remain especially vigilant at all times and to ensure they follow all social distancing and hand sanitising measures.”

Updated 15:39: Statement from Oxfordshire’s four Conservative MPs, John Howell OBE MP, Victoria Prentis MP, Robert Courts MP, David Johnston OBE MP: “We are sorry that the decision of the Government, guided by the judgement of the Chief Medical Officer and Joint Biosecurity Centre, is that the city of Oxford now needs to move into Tier 2 restrictions. We can however understand why the decision has been made given the number of cases in the city. As we made clear last week, public health is the priority and we hope this will stop the spread of the virus. We do not want to see the rest of Oxfordshire put into Tier 2, as council leaders have been requesting if it can be avoided and given the impact this would have on individuals, families and businesses.

We therefore strongly urge everyone today to redouble their efforts to follow the guidance of hands, face, space to help stop the spread of the virus and help prevent the rest of the county needing to be placed into Tier 2.”

Updated 15:32: Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of OxLEP (Local Enterprise Partnerships): “Following the decision to move Oxford into tier two measures, we will continue to work with health officials, our local authority counterparts, the county’s MPs and our business community to ensure the additional support that our businesses will undoubtedly require during this period is in-place and readily available.

We ask that businesses follow the new guidelines and adhere to any actions required where applicable to their industry.

We also encourage them to be as proactive as possible to seek any business support that is needed, whether via existing government schemes or indeed the support and advice we are able to offer as the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

Coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation and will cause concern and disruption to businesses of all sizes for the foreseeable future and we will continue to work with Government to ensure that our business community can be supported and remain resilient and productive during this challenging period.”

Updated 15:30: Oxford University statement on sport: “Organised indoor sport must only take place in accordance with the appropriate guidance – in line with the exemption from the ‘rule of six’ for organised sport at higher education intuitions in all alert tiers.

There is more information available at ox.ac.uk/coronavirus/students and any updates will also appear there”  – students should check this page regularly for the latest information. 

Updated 15:21: Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, tweeted: “I’m disappointed that once again the advice of councils, public health officials, police and others to move the entire county to Tier 2, given the spread of the virus in our community, was ignored.” 

“Our Director of Public Health advised government, on the basis of local data, to put the whole county in Tier 2. This has been ignored. The decision to put Oxford alone into Tier 2 is shocking, when the spread and case numbers outside the city are also of grave concern, and when so many people commute into our city. Those responsible for not protecting communities in the rest of Oxfordshire need to be held accountable for their actions to block a measure intended to save lives locally.”

Updated 15:15: University remains at Planning Stage 2: “University operates in line with social distancing restrictions with as full a student cohort as possible on site; teaching and assessment taking place with the optimum combination of in-person teaching and online learning; and the minimum possible reduction in research capacity. Some areas of the University open to public in line with social distancing restrictions”. 

Updated 15:11: Councillor Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It is very disappointing that government has not responded to help us move into tier 2. We know from discussions with our NHS colleagues that the virus is spreading across all age groups throughout Oxfordshire, putting our most vulnerable residents as risk. Data shows us that cases of COVID-19 will continue to rise, so we urge everyone to help prevent the spread by remaining vigilant and following government guidance.”

Updated 15:10: From the University’s Early Alert Service website: **NEW** Change in alert level in Oxford

“The COVID-19 alert level for Oxford City will move to ‘high’ on Saturday 31 October. In line with Government guidance, the University will continue to remain open and operating, with no change to its own business continuity status level, or Department for Education tier level.

Oxfordshire as a whole remains in the UK Government’s ‘medium’ COVID alert level. The University is at Stage 2 of its emergency response framework (see ‘emergency response stages’ below), and in Tier 1 of the Department for Education’s ‘tiers of restrictions’.

In line with all relevant guidance, teaching and research is currently being conducted in-person when it is safe for both students and staff, with teaching supplemented by online lectures, resources and support.

We remain committed to supporting staff in undertaking their own personal risk assessments, and considering on an individual basis how their personal circumstances need to be taken into account in assessing whether, and how much, in-person teaching may be appropriate.

The University will continue to keep its emergency response status under constant review in light of Government and local health authority advice.

The University has already put a number of key measures in place to keep our community safe.”

Updated 15:02: Oxford University Statement: The COVID-19 alert level for Oxford City will move to ‘high’ on Saturday 31 October. In line with Government guidance, the University will continue to remain open and operating, with no current changes planned to teaching.

In line with Government guidance for areas in high-alert, students may not move backward and forward between their permanent home and term time address during term time. College households must be strictly adhered to, and no visitors to college households will be allowed.

There may be some other changes to colleges’ COVID-secure policies and operations, and further information will be provided in the near future.

Updated 14:58: Oxford City Green Group Leader, Craig Simmons, said the following:

“The Government is doing too little, too late. A pattern we have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Oxford should have entered Tier 2 several weeks ago and Government should now be including all of Oxfordshire in Tier 2 – rather than just Oxford. All the political groups on the City Council have been asking for such decisive action for some time.
We are blessed with exceptionally good and dedicated health services in Oxfordshire and, because of Government indecisiveness, we are going to have to call upon them once again to protect the health and lives of the vulnerable amongst us.”

Updated 14:56: Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“The continued rise in numbers across the county has once more been discussed with central government and Public Health England and it has been agreed that this is the appropriate moment for Oxford move to tier 2.

“However, we remain seriously concerned about the rise in the number of cases across the county, and not just Oxford. We are deeply disappointed that despite clear evidence showing the virus is now spreading to older and more vulnerable communities across the county, our request that Oxfordshire as a whole should move to tier 2 was not approved.

“My five fellow local authority leaders and I firmly believe this is a necessary step to stem the spread of the virus, protect our communities and the Oxfordshire economy. Our position has the full backing of the chief executives of our NHS partners and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and we will continue to push for a move for the rest of the county to happen as soon as possible based on the epidemiological evidence.”

Updated 14:54: Bruno Holthof, Chief Executive Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have moved from a position of low and stable hospital admission rates over the summer to one in which admission rates are increasing. We know there is a time lag between rising cases and an increase in hospital admissions, and so we expect to see a further increase in hospitalisation rates over the coming weeks.”

Dr Kiren Collison, GP and Clinical Chair of Oxfordshire CCG, said: “We need everyone in Oxford to make sure that they follow these new rules so that we can carry on being able to provide care to those who need it. If we don’t act now, the rise in number of patients with coronavirus will put a greater burden on GP services and the wider NHS which could have serious consequences for people who need our help.”

Updated 14:52: Map of Tier 2 boundary

Updated 14:50: Oxford SU statement: Like many of you we are concerned by the news that Oxford will be moving to Tier 2 restrictions. The change will take effect at 00.01 on Saturday (31 October), which means we will be in Tier 2 (High Alert) from Saturday morning. 

We understand that the University and Colleges will remain open. Whilst some parts of University life may look the same as in Tier 1, the new restrictions will undoubtedly affect student life. We are actively lobbying and working closely with the collegiate University to ensure any changes are in line with government guidance and are clearly communicated. The latest information on the University’s response is at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/coronavirus  

As your elected sabbatical officers, our purpose is to improve the overall experience for current and future students at the University. We will continue to listen and amplify student concerns around Coronavirus to decision-makers as the collegiate University assesses the impact of the Tier 2 restrictions on its operations. 

Over the past few months, we have been lobbying for the collegiate University to deliver the best possible student experience this year and to consider student welfare and wellbeing in all its decisions. We have recently secured a new University Mental Health Taskforce, you can read about our aims for the group at: https://www.oxfordsu.org/representation/sabbatical-officers/blog/6546/Oxford-SU-secures-University-Mental-Health-TasknbspForce/ . We have also continued to call for clear and consistent communications across all areas.  

We know this is an uncertain time and we continue to lobby to ensure adequate mental health and wellbeing provision is in place for all students. Our independent and impartial advice service ([email protected]) is here to support and help if you have any individual concerns.”

Updated 14:48: Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I do want to put on the record that this is not the decision that leaders in local government and our local NHS recommended and asked for. Our Director of Public Health advised government, on the basis of local data, to put the whole county in Tier 2. This has been ignored. The decision to put Oxford alone into Tier 2 is shocking, when the spread and case numbers outside the city are also of grave concern, and when so many people commute into our city. Those responsible for not protecting communities in the rest of Oxfordshire need to be held accountable for their actions to block a measure intended to save lives locally.”

Joe Kidman – Oxford City Police Commander tweets: “We will continue to work with our communities to keep everyone safe. We have dedicated patrols alongside partners to respond to concerns. Thank you in advance to the vast majority who will do your bit for the NHS, for family & friends & save lives of people you don’t even know.”

Updated 14:45: University Guidance (general, the University of Oxford yet to clarify): Oxfordshire’s universities and FE colleges will remain open; following Public Health England and Department for Education guidance on keeping students and staff safe. University and college students must follow the specific guidelines and rules set by their university or college. It is unclear whether individual Oxford Colleges will be able to set their own rules. 

You can move home and travel to go to university, but there are some stricter rules in place for areas in high alert level areas:

  • You must not move backward and forward between your permanent home and term time address during term time – subject to limited exemptions set out in law.
  • Students living at their university term time address in a high alert level area should follow the same guidance on meeting other people and travel as others in that area.
  • Commuter students (those who live at a family home and travel to/from university each day) should be able to continue to travel to/from their university as required, this being for education purposes. If you commute into a high alert level area to go to university, you must not:
    -meet people you do not live with in their home inside the area, unless they’re in your household, childcare or support bubble
    -host people you do not live with in your home, if they live in the affected area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble
    -meet people you do not live with in their student halls, whether inside or outside of the area, unless they’re in your childcare or support bubble.
  • If you move out of, or currently live outside of, an affected area you should not:
    -host people you do not live with in your home or student halls if they live in a high alert level area (unless they’re in your household, support bubble or childcare bubble).

Updated 14:43: The latest official figures show the infection rate is 134.5 per 100,000, but these do not reflect the full extent of university positive cases. Once all cases in the city are accounted for the figure is considerably higher. Current Oxford University figures for the University’s own testing service for the week 17-23 October confirmed 208 positive cases.

OXFORD MOVES INTO TIER 2

Oxford will be moving into higher alert (Tier 2) for coronavirus. Oxford City Council announced that, as of Saturday 31 October at 12:01am, Oxford will be under Tier 2 restrictions.

The key difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 restrictions is that Tier 2 restricts socialising indoors with people outside your support bubble. Oxford City Council guidelines state: “You must not meet socially with anyone you don’t live with in an indoor setting, unless they are in your support bubble.”

Overnight stays are only allowed from those in your household or support bubble. Universities, like colleges, schools and places of worship, remain open.

You can still meet people outdoors but the rule of six continues to apply. You cannot meet indoors with people from outside the area, although there are some exceptions to this. The restrictions also state that you should work from home if you can and reduce the number of journeys for access to education.

Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality services remain open but can only offer Table service, and only before 10pm. Face coverings must be worn. Outdoor exercise classes continue but indoor classes may only continue if you can avoid mixing with people outside your household or bubble; exceptions are made for exercise for young people or people with disabilities.

The Council states that Oxford is moving into Tier 2 “as a preventative measure in order to stem the transmission rate and protect our most vulnerable residents.”

“Over the past three weeks, we have not only seen a continued rise in cases in the city, but increasing evidence of the spread of the virus beyond people in their teens and twenties to older and potentially more vulnerable age groups.

“It is evident that the virus is no longer confined to younger people but is now affecting a much wider age range. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.

“We know that transmission of the virus takes place largely as a result of inter-household mixing. By moving Oxford city into Tier 2 (High Alert), which prevents households from mixing in indoor settings, we are taking preventative measures to stop the situation from escalating further and to protect our most vulnerable residents. This is particularly important with events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali approaching when many households will be planning to come together to socialise.

“Taking action taken now will reduce the risk of wider cross-community transmission. We all have a responsibility for ourselves, to protect each other and support our communities.”

This article is breaking news and will be updated with further details as they come.