Dorset Council has expressed its disappointment at moving into a higher tier after leaving lockdown but says it’s not surprised, as information emerges about the lack of local NHS capacity.
The measures considered when allocating the level of Covid Tier, according to Public Health Dorset, are not just the number of coronavirus cases, the rates of transmission and the number of over 60’s affected, but also the pressure on the NHS.
The two areas share NHS resources
While the number of cases of COVID-19 in the Dorset Council area has been roughly half that of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area throughout the pandemic, the two areas share NHS resources, and they have been placed in the same Tier.
This comes as coronavirus testing has been expanded in Dorset, with a mobile testing facility every Thursday at the car park in Norden, now called Purbeck Park.
A new mobile Covid testing facility is now available on Thursdays at Purbeck Park in Norden
“The hospitals are under pressure”
Director of Public Health Dorset, Sam Crowe, at a media briefing following the Tier announcement on Thursday 26th November 2020 said that the ability for local hospitals to cope with Covid admissions was an important factor in calculating the Tier:
“The hospitals are under pressure. We do have more patients affected by COVID-19 at the moment (between 140 to 145 in Dorset hospitals), but we are doing our best to shift our resources and deliver that additional capacity from within our system.
“The positive news is that infection rates are falling….We’ve had a 38 percent drop in Covid cases in the last seven days. We should expect that to feed through into the hospital system over the next few weeks.”
“Coronavirus outbreaks affecting a number of wards”
However the number of Covid patients in Dorset’s hospitals has been made worse by coronavirus spreading within wards. Sam Crowe added:
“We’ve had COVID-19 outbreaks affecting the hospitals particularly in the east of the county – Royal Bournemouth and Poole have both had coronavirus outbreaks affecting a number of wards, so while there are lots of people in hospital with COVID-19, some of them have been in hospital and acquired COVID-19 because of transmission within the hospital.”
Tier was decided by central government
It was made clear at the briefing that the allocation of Tier was decided by central government and not a local decision. It wasn’t down to the councils or Public Health Dorset to decide.
Dorset Council’s Executive Director of Corporate Development, Aidan Dunn said:
“As a council we were disappointed to be in Tier 2 – we’d very much hoped to be in Tier 1 coming out of this. Whether we are linked or tied to BCP, it’s not something we are able to negotiate – it’s very government determined.
“I think we also really recognise that our populations, where they live and work, are across the boundary, so the populations do mix. The virus doesn’t respect council boundaries in that regard. I don’t think it’s a surprise to us that we are in the same category as BCP.”
BCP Portfolio holder for Covid Resilience, Public Health and Education, Councillor Nicola Greene added:
“We had an assurance in a regional meeting that every area’s data had been scrutinised on its own and then regional decisions had been taken and there was no sense of an assumption that you should just lump the whole county together – it was much more granular than that.”
Sticking to the Tier 2 rules
Now residents are being asked to do all that they can to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus by sticking to the Tier 2 rules.
This includes the rule that people must not socialise with anyone they do not live with or who is not in their support bubble in an indoor environment. They may socialise in groups of six people outdoors. Also pubs and bars must close unless they are operating as restaurants.
Second homes in Dorset
There is no restriction on travel or staying in holiday accommodation, unless people are currently in a Tier 3 area and looking to stay in a lower Tier.
When quizzed about the rules for people who have second homes in Dorset, it was admitted that there wasn’t much that councils could do to prevent the movement of people from other areas into the region.
Chief Executive for BCP Council, Graham Farrant said:
“There’s very little we can do other than to request people don’t travel if they have symptoms or if they are coming from a higher Tier area. But I’m not sure there’s any control that we can do at all.”
Tier allocation review
The Dorset Council area will move from lockdown to Tier 2 restrictions on Wednesday 2nd December 2020. The allocation of the Tier level will be reviewed again by the government on Wednesday 16th December 2020.