This is how Lancashire's Covid rates have changed as Tier 3 review nears
Lancashire will find out on Wednesday whether its Tier 3 status will change, as the government carries out its latest fortnightly review of Covid restrictions.
The county was left under what was then the toughest set of rules when the last nationwide reassessment took place on 16th December.
However, within days of that process being completed, a new Tier 4 was created and brought in at short notice in London and much of the South East of England, amid concern over the rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus.
The newly-identified strain is thought to be up to 70 percent more contagious than others and prompted the introduction of the new top tier – which was then extended to other areas from Boxing Day.
People in Tier 4 areas are required to stay at home, except for work where it cannot be done from home, education, essential shopping, medical reasons and other limited purposes. Non-essential retailers are closed under Tier 4.
Lancashire’s Tier 3 status has remained unchanged over the festive period, but the county’s director of public health warned three days before Christmas that rising case numbers were an indication that the new variant was already present in the county – although at that point, Dr. Sakthi Karunanthi said that there was no “rationale” for putting the county into Tier 4.
Having been marginally above the average England case rate the last time the tiers were reviewed, Lancashire is now significantly below it – with 241.4 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 25th December, compared to 401.9 across England.
However, 10 out of 14 council areas now have higher rates than a fortnight ago, with only slight falls in Blackpool, Preston, Rossendale and South Ribble.
Meanwhile, parts of the east of the county have seen significant spikes – including Burnley, currently the worst affected part of Lancashire, where the figure now stands at 465.6.
The case rate in the over 60s has also risen county-wide, although that, too, is now below the England average. Central Lancashire is no longer the county's hotspot by that measure, with falls across Preston, South Ribble and Chorley over the past fortnight.
However, half of the county is above what is thought to be the threshold of concern for the government in terms of over-60s rates – 200 per 100,000 of the population – and Blackburn and Burnley both now exceed the 300 mark.
The government has recently shown more willingness to introduce different tiers in different parts of the same county – a move long called for by many Lancashire leaders.
Notwithstanding that fact – and as ministers weigh their decision – the Lancashire picture will be set against an increasingly bleak national backdrop.
Monday saw the highest number of new cases recorded in a single day across the UK since the pandemic began – 41,385 – and that record was broken by a wide margin just 24 hours later, with 53.135 cases recorded on Tuesday.
There are also now more patients in hospital in England with Covid than at the peak of the first wave back in April – 20,426, compared to 18,974.
Pressure on NHS services is one of the key criteria, along with case rates, which determimes government decisions on tiering.
One of the government’s own advisers today called for “decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February”.
Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) warned that the country was “entering a new dangerous phase of the pandemic” in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
COVID CASE RATES
Coronavirus cases per 100,000 of the population in the week to 25th December (compared to the week to 13th December, the most recent publicly-available data on the day of the last tier review on 16th December) – and in the over-60s age band in the week to 23rd Dec.
Blackburn with Darwen
312 (up from 239.8)
Over-60s – 374.1
158.5 (down from 165.7)
Over-60s – 206.6
465.6 (up from 322.8)
213.2 (up from 206.4)
Over-60s – 193.1
152.3 (up from 126.3)
Over-60s – 153.3
248.0 (up from 209.8)
Over-60s – 226.4
193.1 (up from 153.4)
Over-60s – 138.6
389.7 (up from 261.6)
Over-60s – 252.1
206.1 (down from 218.0)
Over 60s – 205.9
315.3 (up from 234.9)
Over-60s – 288.7
202.8 (down from 223.8)
Over-60s – 141.4
160.7 (down from 169.7)
Over-60s – 173.2
201.2 (up from 189.0)
Over-60s – 110.8
162.4 (up from 134.25)
Over-60s – 156.7
LANCASHIRE COMPARED TO ENGLAND
Lancashire overall case average (week to 25th Dec) – 241.4
England overall case average (week to 25th Dec) – 401.9
Over-60s Lancashire average (week to 23rd Dec) – 211.3
Over-60s England average (week to 23rd Dec) – 244.8