Hastings and Rother are 'teetering' towards tier 3 after sharp increase in Covid-19 cases - what does this mean for West Sussex?

Residents across Hastings and Rother have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past week, with fears that this could see the area placed into tier 3 restrictions.

Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart said there is ‘real anxiety’ the area will see a prolonged period of high infection rates as seen in north Kent, which saw areas recording rates of up to 600 infections per 100,000 people.

The rates are still far below that in Hastings and Rother, but rates have risen sharply in the past four days.

Statistics show that in the days leading up to December 3, the infection rate in Hastings stood at 152 per 100,000 members of the population. It is expected this figure will hit 200 in the next couple of days, overtaking Rother.

The tiers explained

Rother’s infection rate stood at 157 out of 100,000 in the days leading up to December 3. This is expected to rise to 170 in the next couple of days.

Infection rates in Wealden and Eastbourne are expected to remain “relatively stable”, while Lewes district continues to maintain the lowest infection rate in the county.

What does this mean for West Sussex?

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said he was unable to comment on the situation as they are not involved in the setting of Covid tiers, adding: "The best way that people can help bring down the Covid rates, and hopefully bring us into a lower tier, will be by continuing to comply with government guidelines, washing their hands regularly, wearing face coverings when necessary and maintain social distancing from others."

When asked if the sharp rise in East Sussex cases would impact on West Sussex and whether we would be treated as 'one county', a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Tiering decisions are based on a range of criteria including how quickly case rates are going up or down, cases in the over 60s, pressure on the NHS and local circumstances.

“The Government will review the tiering allocations every 14 days and areas will move up or down the tiers based on these indicators from local areas.”

However, in the background information the department sent to the newspaper one bullet point stood out - 'In order to provide greater clarity and consistency, all tier restrictions will now be standardised rather than negotiated with local areas'.

The Government is set to review the tiers by December 16.

Plea from Hastings and Rye MP and East Sussex County Council’s director of public health

Speaking after the release of the latest Covid-19 data, Mrs Hart said: “I am very concerned by the sharp and sustained rise in Covid-19 cases across Hastings and Rother. Having spoken to the local Director of Public Health, there is now a real anxiety that we could see a prolonged period of high infection rates as seen in North Kent. If this is the case, then our area is now teetering towards Tier Three restrictions in the coming weeks.

“I am urging all local residents to please follow the guidance and comply with the Covid-19 restrictions. I know this is incredibly hard for all of us, but if we ignore the rules cases will go up, our hospital will be overwhelmed and ultimately, we will see the desperate scenes of families losing loved ones in the run up to Christmas. If we follow the restrictions, we can avoid Tier Three measures and protect our NHS, ultimately saving lives.”

Darrell Gale, East Sussex County Council’s director of public health, has issued a stark warning to festive revellers - especially with the five-day Christmas Covid bubble due to start in just under two weeks time.

He said: “We know that the messaging here is potentially confusing for people. We are in a higher tier than we were in East Sussex prior to lockdown, so we are asking people to be more restricted. But then we have the five days of Christmas to meet friends.

“I am making a plea to people to do only what is completely necessary rather than doing it just because they can do it.”

He added: “I’m worried people still think the rates are low and continue to behave as if they are low. We want people to know the rates are not low and there are things they can do to help stop it.”

Hastings and Rother – along with the whole of East and West Sussex – entered tier two restrictions on Wednesday (December 2) following the end of the second national lockdown.