BREAKING: Oxford in Tier 2 post-lockdown

The government has announced that the entirety of Oxfordshire will be in Tier 2 (High Alert) restrictions once lockdown ends on the 2nd December.

The government states that this Tier is for areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place.

You can find out the restrictions of a specific area use THIS checker, but the website has been crashing continuously. Just three areas, Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight, are in Tier 1.

Cases of Covid-19 in Oxfordshire have been declining of late. These figures are the number of infections per 100,000 people in the seven days up to and including 21st November (previous week’s figures in brackets).

Oxford – 134.5 (down from 248.6)

Cherwell – 96.3 (down from 162.1)

Vale of White Horse – 73.5 (down from 141.9)

South Oxfordshire – 90.8 (down from 123.9)

West Oxfordshire – 78.6 (down from 121.1)

The figure for England is 208.7 (down from 274.6).

Oxford University reported only 40 new cases for the week 14 – 20 November, the lowest number since term began. The positivity rate also decreased to 17.4% from last week’s 30%.

In Tier 2, you cannot socialise with anyone who is not in your household or support bubble indoors, and the ‘rule of 6’ applies in outdoor settings. Pubs and bars must close unless they are operating as restaurants, and hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals. However, the 10pm curfew has been increased to 11pm, with last orders at 10pm.

The 11pm closure also applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm.

Newly, public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (such as performances and shows) can go ahead limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors. Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to the same capacity restrictions.

Places of worship remain open but you cannot socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there unless a legal exemption applies, and weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees.

In terms of sports, organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing. Sports Federation has said that it anticipates organised University sport will not be allowed to continue until after Christmas, and not during the ‘Travel Window’ citing a government ban on all extracurricular activities.

The University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University are rolling out testing systems ahead of the Christmas break. This will see students offered ‘free and fast’ COVID-19 tests by the universities. These will be available on Oxford college campuses from 30th November and are part of a plan to enable students to return to their homes safely and mitigate the spread of the virus.

Following the end of the national restrictions on 2nd December, students have been told to continue to follow all national and local public health guidance while they remain at university and when they return home if they choose to go home.

Matt Hancock was asked by MPs in the Commons if an “appeals process” will be available for regions wanting to get out of restrictions early. He said the tiers will be reviewed in two weeks, and after that, they may be able to be reviewed weekly with comments welcomed from local leaders.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council said: “I want to thank everyone in Oxford for sticking to the lockdown rules and helping bring the infection rate down in the city. This has been a whole community effort and the way you all have responded – businesses, residents and students – means Oxford’s case numbers started to come down last week. This is great news, but we are not out of the woods yet and we will all need to continue to take precautions to make sure the decrease in cases in the city continues.

“We are exiting into Tier 2, which means we can enjoy a bit more normality and social life, and it will give a welcome boost to our local businesses. Please do enjoy the run-up to Christmas by using local shops and hospitality safely, but remember, the rule of six only applies outside and indoors you must stay in your household or bubble. Continue to take sensible precautions and don’t break the rules. What we each do now will make a real difference to keeping safe over the Christmas break.”

In the Commons, Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, thanked Matt Hancock for implementing an Oxfordshire wide policy. She said Oxfordshire cannot risk any more damaging lockdowns, and asked if the key to beating the virus was treating local areas as partners and that when they say they should be moving up and down Tiers their voice will be given considerable weight.

Matt Hancock replied: “I do give considerable weight to local leaders when they make a case for a particular Tier for their area.”

“Oxfordshire has made great strides in tackling this virus, including tackling the student outbreak at the universities in Oxford, and I hope they can work to get Oxfordshire down into Tier 1 as soon as possible, but there is some work still to do.”

In the House of Commons this week, when asked if restrictions could be imposed by district and borough, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the virus was “no respecter of borough boundaries”.