ONLY three of the 150 local authorities in England have seen infection rates increase in one week.
Official data from Public Health England offers another glimmer of hope that the second wave is stalling.
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The weekly PHE report gives cases in each authority in relation to population size.
Today, the data showed only three spots saw cases per 100,000 residents went up in the seven days between 16 and 22 November.
The data is an improvement on the week prior, when at least a third of local authorities were seeing rising infection rates.
In a positive boost for Northerners, nowhere above London saw cases increase in the week to November 22.
It will come as a relief to the millions of people in the North West and Midlands who have been subject to the toughest restrictions over the past few months due to stubbornly high infection rates.
But despite cases falling across the country, 99.9 per cent of the population will be put into the harshest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions from next Thursday.
Just 700,000 people – or 1.27 per cent of the population – will escape strict rules on socialising and going to the pub while in Tier 1.
Where cases are rising
Medway, in Kent, saw cases increase by the most, by almost 29 per cent, from 322.74 cases to 414.64 per 100,000 people.
It’s been revealed today that Medway, along with the rest of Kent, will be plunged into Tier 3 from December 2, when England comes out the national lockdown.
Tier 3 measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks.
Bars and restaurants will be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people will be advised to avoid travelling outside their area.
Redbridge, in London, and East Sussex both saw infections rise last week, but only by around five per cent.
And neither location’s case rate is among the hotspots. Redbridge’s case rate is 295.85 while East Sussex’s is 122.93.
By comparison, the authority listed by PHE as having the highest case rate was Hull, with 445.38. Medway’s infection rate comes second, followed by Stoke-on-Trent with 409.56.
Tier we go
It comes as England braces for a return to the tiered system, with officials announcing earlier today which level each postcode will fall under.
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are in the lowest Tier 1, facing very little restrictions.
Some 32 million people in England – just over 56 per cent of the population – will be in Tier 2 – including Liverpool and London.
Tier 2 allow pubs and restaurants to remain open, but they must serve a substantial meal and different households can only mix outside.
Nearly 42 per cent (23 million people) will be in the top Tier 3 – featuring large swathes of the North and Midlands.
The Department of Health said decisions on tier levels would be based on a number of factors, including case detection rates in all age groups and, in particular, amongst the over 60s.
The full list of tiers
Tier 1: Medium alert
Tier 2: High alert
- Liverpool City Region
- Warrington and Cheshire
- Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
East of England
- Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
- Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
- Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
- all 32 boroughs plus the City of London
- East Sussex
- West Sussex
- Brighton and Hove
- Bracknell Forest
- Windsor and Maidenhead
- West Berkshire
- Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
- South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
- Bath and North East Somerset
- Wiltshire and Swindon
Tier 3: Very High alert
- Tees Valley Combined Authority:
- Redcar and Cleveland
- North East Combined Authority:
- South Tyneside
- Newcastle upon Tyne
- North Tyneside
- County Durham
- Greater Manchester
- Blackburn with Darwen
Yorkshire and The Humber
- The Humber
- West Yorkshire
- South Yorkshire
- Birmingham and Black Country
- Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
- Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull
- Derby and Derbyshire
- Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
- Leicester and Leicestershire
- Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)
- Kent and Medway
- South Gloucestershire
- North Somerset
North bounces back
Nowhere in the North is recording rising infection rates after being battered by the second wave. But many locations are still among the top Covid-19 hotspots.
Liverpool saw its infection rate drop by 44 per cent in the seven days to November 22 to 146.17, according to PHE figures.
The city, which had been in Tier 3 before the lockdown, will move to Tier 2 in recognition of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram said: “The progress we’ve made since we were put in Tier 3 is remarkable – we’ve gone from having two areas with infection rates of about 750 per 100k to 180 across the city region.”
But it’s misery for millions in Manchester and Newcastle who will be plunged into the toughest Covid restrictions once again, despite improvements in cases.
WHERE HAVE INFECTION RATES FALLEN THE MOST AND LEAST?
Infection rates fell the most in these areas, listed as the place, the percentage change and infection rate:
Bracknell Forest: -55.43% (60.38)
Brighton and Hove: -51.10% (75.98)
Torbay: -47.12% (107.88)
Trafford: -46.94% (164.31)
Southampton: -46.78% (118.01)
Plymouth: -46.49% (116.37)
Cheshire West and Chester: -45.35% (164.4)
Sefton: -45.21% (140.73)
Liverpool: -43.87% (146.17)
Wandsworth: -43.55% (102.22)
Infection rates reduced the least (or rose), in these areas, listed as the place, the percentage change and infection rate:
Medway: 28.47% (infection rate 414.64)
East Sussex: 5.22% (122.93)
Redbridge: 5% (295.85)
Luton: 0% (285.85)
Newham: -0.14% (210.68)
Hounslow: -0.97% (187.46)
Suffolk: -3.15% (80.65)
Greenwich: -4.12% (177.81)
Barking and Dagenham: -5.87% (248.47)
Thurrock: -6.43% (208.79)
Sir Richard Leese, the Labour leader of Manchester City Council, said it was “deeply disappointing” the city had been placed in Tier 3.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham tweeted a table showing that while cases per capita were still high in the region, the number of new cases was falling more sharply than in the rest of England.
Meanwhile, the south of England is faring worse than the north.
Case rates are currently rising in eight of the 119 areas to go into Tier 3, and seven of those are in South East England.
The whole of Kent will be bumped into Tier 3 despite being in the lowest Tier 1 before lockdown.
Tory MPs in Kent lobbied the Prime Minister to not impose county-wide restrictions due to variations in case numbers, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Two Kent boroughs – Swale and Thanet – have the two highest rates of Covid-19 infection in England at 535.0 and 493.2, respectively.
That’s according to PA news agency which collates data by at a closer postcode level compared to the PHE report.
Despite Swale and Thanet’s eye-watering infection rates, Tunbridge Wells has a rate of just 117.9.
Meanwhile, neighbouring authority, Wealden, has a higher rate of 161.0, but will enjoy more freedom as part of East Sussex being under Tier 2.
Jo James, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said news that the whole of the county will enter Tier 3 is “disappointing” but not a shock.
She told the PA news agency: “I have spoken to a few (businesses) and they are absolutely devastated by it but on the whole it was expected.
“It’s such a shame that somewhere like Kent that is one of the biggest counties in the country has to be taken as a whole.”
‘Levelling’ of outbreak
The bolstered tier system is coming into place despite various sets of data showing the crisis is improving.
Ministers are likely keeping measures as tight as possible in anticipation of a spike around Christmas time, when families will be allowed to celebrate together.
Today the Office for National Statistics said that “in recent weeks, the positivity rate in England has shown signs of levelling”.
It found an estimated 633,000 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between November 15 and 21, a slight decrease from 664,700 the week before.
Its Covid-19 Infection Survey, based on more than 712,000 tests gathered from random households across the UK, is considered the most accurate way to measure the outbreak.