David Wood blog: Bristol and Plymouth - the differing responses to coronavirus from the city's mayors

COVID TESTING 28/10/2020
Credit: PA Images

Bristol and Plymouth are edging close to Tier 2 Covid restrictions, but the cities' Labour councils have differing responses to make sure their city's avoid the move.

In Bristol we are being introduced to a new term 'Tier 1 plus' which isn't part of the Government's official tier alert system but shows that the city is moving towards Tier 2.

The infection rates in Bristol are rising and are well above the national average, it is also clear that hospital admissions are beginning to rise and older, more vulnerable people are beginning to become infected.

Bristol Credit: ITV West Country

'Tier 1 plus' will mean new measures are introduced:

  • Tighter enforcement

  • More local control over test and trace

  • Targeted focus on working adults (aged 30 - 60)

  • Introduction of covid marshals to patrol city

Plymouth Harbour Credit: ITV West Country

Most of this is already common in many areas of England under Tier 1 restrictions, however the extra local control over Test and Trace is being seen as a success and will allow local health bosses to be more involved in tracing people who've come into contact with someone with the virus.

In essence the message of the new measures shows a confidence (or at least hope) from the city's leaders that stronger enforcement of the Covid rules will improve rates.

However, some political sources close to the negotiations say they're concerned the introduction of the 'Tier 1 plus' term will add to residents' confusion about the health message.

Boris Johnson's Government introduced the three tier system to make the regional restrictions as simple as possible for people to understand. Some fear the introduction of new terms will distract from that.

Local leaders do have the power to introduce extra measures to curb the infection rates in all tiers of the Government plan.

In response to Marvin Rees' announcement of 'Tier 1 plus' a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care says: “There are three Local Covid Alert Levels which are enshrined in law and we are not considering the introduction of a “plus” system.”“Bristol is currently at medium and local leaders have the authority to bring in some additional measures for their area and we welcome local efforts to break chains of transmission.” 

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees Credit: ITV West Country

Heading further South West the warning in Plymouth is a stark one, with health bosses saying it could be placed into Tier 2 (the Higher level of alert) within days as infection rates are rising quickly, although are still below the England average.

What is concerning health bosses is the style of community transmission happening in Plymouth, cases are on the up in pretty much all parts of the city and, whilst many who have it are in working age groups, more older and vulnerable people are starting to test positive. The council is also concerned that admissions are on the rise at Derriford hospital. 

There is a hope that if people become extra vigilant in Plymouth with their adherence to the coronavirus rules then the rates could fall and the city avoid moving into Tier 2.

I understand the next couple of days are key and if things don't improve within 10 days the city will move up a tier.