Oxfordshire will be subject to tier 4 Covid restrictions on Boxing Day, the health secretary has said. At the same time Gloucestershire will move to tier 3. And, as a sign of the times, The Maytime Inn at Asthall has announced that it will be closing until March 2021.
Oxfordshire will jump from tier 2 to the toughest level of restrictions after Matt Hancock said tier 3 was not enough to control the new variant of coronavirus spreading.
The county's director for public health Ansaf Azhar said the county was "in a very serious situation”. He said there had been "sharp rises" in cases and hospital admissions.
The new restrictions will come into force from 00.01 GMT on Saturday.
Oxfordshire County Council said the latest rate of Covid-19 cases in the county in the seven days up to and including 18 December stood at 236.5 per 100,000 people. This is up 86% from the week before, with cases increasing from 878 to 1,636.
Mr Azhar said tier 4 was a "stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant”. "Unless we all take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks, we risk creating a situation in the early weeks of 2021 that will see further steep rises in the number of cases at exactly the time of year when viruses thrive," he added. "This means putting even more pressure on our NHS at its busiest time of year."
Regulations in tier 4
Residents should stay at home, unless they have a "reasonable excuse" such as work or education
All non-essential shops must close
Hairdressers and nail bars must close
Indoor entertainment venues must close
Gyms and indoor swimming pools, indoor sports courts and dance studios must close
You cannot meet other people indoors, unless you live with them or they are part of your support bubble
People should not leave tier four areas or travel abroad, except for limited reasons (including work and education)
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are only allowed in exceptional circumstances
"Clinically extremely vulnerable" people in tier four areas are advised to stay at home "as much as possible". The government says if they can't work from home, they shouldn't go to work.
Activities still allowed include:
Meeting one other person from another household in an open public space (but not in your garden) if you are both alone
Shopping for essentials such as food and medicine
Outdoor pools, playgrounds, sports courts, golf courses and horse riding centres can open
You can leave home for work, education, training, childcare and for medical appointments and emergencies
Communal religious worship
Support bubbles are still allowed and children can move between separated parents
The county’s libraries will also close but some will provide a limited number of services, including IT access, which must be booked, online services, home library visits and click and collect. So that’s the end of the plan to reopen Burford’s library in the New Year.
The Maytime Inn at Asthall announced on 22 December tha tthey were closing from 29 December until 1 March but the alteration to the tiers means that, like all other Oxfordshire pubs, they will have to close from Boxing Day. In an email to their customers they said:
“As an industry we continue to be offered very little support and have been constantly demonised by the government during this pandemic even though we are responsible for a tiny fraction of transmissions - somewhere in the region of 3%.
Since July we have spaced our tables reducing our capacity by 40%, changed our whole operational set up to allow us to serve you safely, invested in a multitude of cleaning chemicals, revised our booking guidelines and systems multiple times, and re-developed our approach to fit in with a frenetic and ever-changing list of rules; some sensible and some outright ridiculous.”
“We reopened at the beginning of December and knew things were going to be different in Tier 2 but to be frank they are terrible - we are 60% down on our weekly sales for this time of year. The signs are all pointing towards a long and turbulent winter as we head into 2021 with threats of further lockdowns and the added complications Brexit brings.
Therefore, it is after much deliberation that we have decided to temporarily close The Maytime Inn from 29th December 2020 and reopen on the 1st March 2021. This is not a decision we have taken lightly but it is one we are taking now to allow us to ensure our team is kept together and is well looked after, and to allow us to progress our exciting plans for 2021, which we are sure you will love!”