Coronavirus: Are tougher restrictions going to be imposed in the South West?

Are tougher restrictions about to be imposed in the South West? Credit: PA

All areas in the South West remain in Tier 1, with infection rates among the lowest in the UK.

But latest data from Imperial College shows the region’s R rate - which indicates how many people a person with coronavirus will infect - is now above two, at 2.06.

A rise in cases in towns and cities, including Bristol, Plymouth and Swindon, has prompted renewed calls for tougher restrictions to be imposed.

Testing sites are operating across the West Country. Credit: PA

What is happening in our towns and cities?

In Bristol, where health leaders announced ‘Tier 1 Plus’ status earlier this week, the infection rate is 356.3 per 100,000 - which is the highest of anywhere in the West Country.

The city’s Director of Public Health has since urged residents to take immediate action in order to bring case numbers under control.

Christina Gray said social interaction - particularly among the 30 to 69 age group - is thought to be one of the key factors behind the spread of the virus.

A number of Covid-19 marshals are set to be deployed in the city over the coming weeks to explain the rules and give guidance.


In Swindon, where the case rate is 120.1 per 100,000, leaders have warned stricter restrictions might soon be imposed.

A testing facility in Swindon.

In a statement posted online on 30 October, Swindon Borough Council said “clusters” had emerged in areas of the Wiltshire town - not just SN1 or SN2, where the virus had previously concentrated.

“It is a fast moving situation and we are now seeing more areas move up to the next alert level from their existing one,” the council said.

“As we head into winter, when our resilience will be tested, it is important that we keep in mind what’s at stake: protecting the health of ourselves, our loved ones and thousands of vulnerable and at-risk residents across our community.

“That means each of us taking personal responsibility for following the guidance and taking the crucial prevention measures.”


1,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Plymouth in just 22 days between 8 October and 30 October. Credit: Plymouth Live

In Plymouth, there have now been 2,000 documented cases of coronavirus since 13 March.

Half of those cases have been reported in the past 22 days, which suggests cases are on the rise.

Speaking to ITV News West Country earlier this week, Dr Ruth Harrell, who is the city’s Director of Public Health, said cases have now spread into the older population.

“We are not seeing a specific outbreak but we are seeing that widespread community transmission and that’s why we’ve all go to do our bit to see what we can do to turn this around,” she said.

A growing sense of inevitability

Analysis by Political Correspondent David Wood

There is a growing sense of inevitability that this weekend and the early days of next week are crucial in the West Country's fight against coronavirus. 

Health officials have long been warning if the increasing numbers of infections aren't brought under control, then there may need to be more restrictions. Now, some politicians are beginning to come around to that realisation, too.

The debate is slowly becoming a case of when do some parts of the West Country join Tier 2 rather than if.

Bristol declared Tier 1 Plus restrictions earlier this week.

Within that debate is the question of whether our areas with higher infection rates, for example Plymouth and Bristol, enter tougher restrictions on their own or should the wider region? Pretty much all local councils have issued warnings this weekend about sticking to the rules and regulations to try and avoid needing further restrictions.

Throughout the region, infection rates are on the up but there are still variations across the West Country with Cornwall having the lowest rate at 49 per 100,000 and Bristol far, far higher at around 360 per 100,000. 

The average infection rate across the West Country is sitting at 132 per 100,000 as we head into the weekend.

As things stand, the Government is using that difference as a reason to stick with regional restrictions rather than following Labour's call for a national lockdown. 

  • Watch Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls for a 'circuit breaker' lockdown

However, as MPs return to Westminster next week, it is likely major decisions will need to be made as ministers hope to allow some sense of normality for Christmas. But to achieve that, it could mean further action now to get the virus under control. 

For some time now, it has felt like the second wave of this virus has been happening elsewhere.

However, with our infection rates rising and Oxford now moving into Tier 2, the second wave is fast approaching.

This weekend will be key to see if we can do anything to hold it off a little longer. 

As things stand, it would be remarkable if a number of parts of the West Country aren't in Tier 2 by the end of next week.

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