PUBLIC health chiefs in Dorset have warned that a "cautious approach" should be taken to changing coronavirus restrictions.

There have been calls from the county's MPs for the BCP and Dorset Council areas to be moved from the current position in Tier 2 measures to looser Tier 1 restrictions when the Government review takes place this week.

However, Sam Crowe, Dorset and BCP Councils director of public health, if a move out of Tier 2 is made too soon coronavirus cases will rise "quickly again" and the county will be "forced back into more drastic measures".

He said the region's hospital system remained under pressure and drew comparisons between current case numbers and those in early October when they started to increase sharply.

Mr Crowe also highlighted that the number of cases is not the only factor the Government considers in its decision on tiers.

“It will be looking at whether areas are continuing to improve or whether their position has stabilised," said Mr Crowe.

“Locally, we have seen the reduction in case rates level off and plateau in recent days and our hospital system remains under pressure. In terms of case rates, we are now at a similar level as at the end of September and early October, when we had seen cases start to increase rapidly.

“We do need to take a cautious approach in changing restrictions; if we leave Tier 2 too soon, we could see cases start to increase quickly again and be forced back into more drastic measures. Covid-19 is very much still with us so we must not become complacent.”

A review of England’s local restriction tier levels is to take place this week, with an announcement expected on Wednesday.

Following the end of national restrictions earlier this month, both Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council areas were placed under Tier 2 (High Alert) level restrictions. This includes a ban on households mixing in any indoor setting.

The Government's winter plan sets out five criteria used nationally to determine tiers for local areas:

  • Case detection rates in all age groups
  • Case detection rates in the over 60s
  • The rate at which cases are rising or falling
  • Positivity rate
  • Pressure on the NHS.

Any decision on whether an area will move to a different tier is taken by national government. An announcement on these decisions is expected on Wednesday.

BCP Council deputy leader Cllr Philip Broadhead told the Daily Echo: “We continue to work closely with local MPs and partners to demonstrate that the rates are continuing to fall in a meaningful way in the BCP and Dorset area.

"We are now some way below the national infection levels, and the gap is widening.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Philip BroadheadCllr Philip Broadhead

"The Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, referenced the area in the House of Commons, recognising the falling rates in response to a question from a Dorset MP. This shows that the message is clearly getting through.

“We urge the government to show that a path down through the tiers is possible, to give hope to the businesses that continue to struggle greatly under the tier 2 restrictions.

“Moving the BCP and Dorset areas into tier 1 as soon as possible would demonstrate that path – especially as the vaccine delivery programme ramps up.”