Oxford leaders prepare for city to move to ‘high’ Covid alert level from Saturday

301020-people walking through oxford city centre

Council leaders in Oxford are preparing for the city to be placed under Tier 2 Covid-19 restrictions due to a rise of cases.

It means that the city's residents will need to abide by new rules from Saturday 31 October.

The decision follows intensive discussions between central government, local councils, MPs and others in recent days.

Oxford City Council has now issued a reminder to residents to continue to follow social distancing guidelines this Halloween.

Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, said: "As we enter Tier 2 from Saturday morning, we want to remind residents of how they can celebrate Halloween safely. It is important that we all follow the guidance around Tier 2 in order to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. There are many creative ways we can celebrate Halloween while also stopping to spread the virus by not doing door to door trick or treating, or handing out treats by hand.”   

Rates per 100,000 in Oxford city rose to 134.5 for the week ending 23 October.

For Oxfordshire as a whole, the rate was 117.5 for the same period.

The rest of the county remains at tier 1 or ‘medium’ level, although figures in other areas continue to rise.

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.

The council says that as a result, hospital admissions have begun to increase.

Listen: Cllr Susan Brown, Oxford City Council, and Oxfordshire County Council Leader, Cllr Ian Hudspeth

The new restrictions for the High Alert Level will mean:

  • People must not meet socially with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place

  • People can continue to see those they don't live with, outside, including in a garden or other outdoor space in no more than groups of six

  • People can still travel to other areas, but are advised to limit trips as much as possible

  • Pubs, bars and restaurants can still remain open, but they must operate in a Covid-secure manner and are required to shut between 10pm and 5am

  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open

  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees

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.”

Residents are being urged to stick to the new rules in Oxford to help tackle these recent trends.

Meanwhile, Robert Courts MP, John Howell MP, David Johnston MP and Victoria Prentis MP, who represent other areas of Oxfordshire, say they do not want to see the rest of the county put into Tier 2.

Credit: ITV Meridian

In a statement they said: "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."