There will “inevitably” be inconsistencies in the new three-tier lockdown system, Boris Johnson says, as it emerged the city with the highest infection rate in England will avoid the strictest COVID-19 rules.
Nottingham will be placed in the “high” category of coronavirus alert levels – the middle tier between “medium” and “very high” – when the new system comes into force on Wednesday.
A total of 2,777 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the East Midlands city in the seven days to 9 October, the equivalent of 834.2 cases per 100,000 people.
This represented a huge leap from 1,417 new cases in the previous seven days (the week to 2 October), or 425.7 per 100,000 people.
And the city, which has had the highest infection rate for five days running, remains well ahead of the area with the second highest rate in England – Knowsley – which is now on 656.9 cases per 100,000.
David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, suggested there were two reasons why the city had not been placed in the “very high” tier.
“The first is that our hospitals aren’t currently at that level,” he said. “There is a great deal of preparation going on, but they’re not full.
“The second is that the cases haven’t spread in large numbers to the older population. Most of our cases are currently among younger people.”
Only the Liverpool City Region has been placed in the “very high” category of restrictions so far.
Steve Rotherham, the region’s mayor, claimed the city’s new measures had been “dictated to us by government”.
The prime minister was quizzed about apparent inconsistencies in the tiering of English regions at a Downing Street news conference on Monday.
Mr Johnson was challenged about criticism of the decision to place the West Midlands into the “high” category by the region’s mayor Andy Street.
“On the variations in the tiers and people’s feelings there are anomalies – that’s inevitably going to happen in a complex campaign against a pandemic like this,” the prime minister said.
“I don’t want to put the West Midlands, I don’t want to put anywhere into the measures that we have to do… but we have to get that virus down, it is necessary.
“I’m afraid it is going up in the West Midlands, as indeed it is across the whole country.
“There’s no area where it isn’t going up anymore, alas, and that’s why we’ve got to take especially dynamic measures in those areas that are particularly badly affected.”
Mr Street had earlier called on the government to review its decision to put the West Midlands into the second tier “as soon as possible”.
“I have always argued that data and evidence should lead decision-making, and I therefore find it very surprising that the West Midlands, with an average infection rate of 123 per 100,000, is now in the same tier as Manchester, which has an average infection rate of more than 550 per 100,000,” he said in a statement.
“Reflecting on this, I am very disappointed that the government has not found a more flexible approach to our situation.”
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