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Bishop's Stortford MP Julie Marson asks Health Secretary Matt Hancock for district-specific Covid restrictions

Bishop’s Stortford’s MP has asked the Health Secretary to adopt a district-by-district approach if Covid-19 restrictions need to be increased in Hertfordshire.

Conservative Julie Marson put a question to Matt Hancock in the House of Commons last Thursday (Oct 15) after he made a statement which included confirmation that he had approved Essex County Council’s request to tighten rules and step up from the Tier 1 'medium' Covid alert level to the Tier 2 'high' level.

Julie Marson MP - Hertford and Stortford..Pic: Vikki Lince. (42737135)
Julie Marson MP - Hertford and Stortford..Pic: Vikki Lince. (42737135)

Mrs Marson said: “My right honourable friend will, I am sure, be aware that the World Health Organisation has recently praised Hertfordshire health authorities for measuring the pulse and the feelings of our community through an online platform, and for adjusting service provision accordingly. Does he agree that good local data could enable a district-wide approach rather than a county-wide approach in Hertfordshire in the event that the tier levels have to be reassessed?”

Mr Hancock, who also placed London in Tier 2, said: “Yes, of course we look at a district-by-district approach, as the decision in Elmbridge [borough in Surrey] attests.

"I mentioned Leicester and Bolton as areas where local action has brought the virus under control. Of course, that is also absolutely true in Hertfordshire. There was quite a serious outbreak a month or so ago that was brought under control by a combination of the district councils, the county council and the central team all working well together, crucially supported and effectively delivered by the people of Hertfordshire.”

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock. Picture by Mark Westley (42737146)
Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock. Picture by Mark Westley (42737146)

Residents in the Indie patch questioned the Essex rules which meant dramatically different restrictions on socialising at the weekend for householders in Stansted. There, the Cork House bar in Lower Street closed temporarily as a result of the new alert, but a five-minute drive away in Bishop’s Stortford, pubs can still serve mixed groups.

Likewise, people in Lower Sheering, part of Epping Forest district and therefore in Essex, are struggling to understand why neighbours in the Sawbridgeworth parish enjoyed more freedom as part of East Herts district, despite their close proximity.

Last Friday (Oct 16) there was a fresh warning from Hertfordshire’s Local Resilience Forum (LRF), a partnership of over 60 organisations, including emergency services, councils and health services, which has co-ordinating the county’s approach to Covid-19.

Darryl Keen, Herts' director of community protection, chief fire officer and chair of the LRF's strategic co-ordination group, said: “Hertfordshire is currently rated in Tier 1, the 'medium' alert level. Despite this, we have seen a significant rise in positive cases of coronavirus in our county over the last 10 days and the situation here remains serious. There is no room for complacency.

“I’m pleading with everyone to act now to avoid our county moving to 'high' risk status, for which there will be stricter, tougher measures introduced. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to keep the virus at bay.

“We still have a limited window of opportunity to stay in control of the spread of the virus in Hertfordshire – if you keep playing your part, we can all stay safe in Hertfordshire together.”

Chief Supt Matt Nicholls, of Hertfordshire police, said: “Our police officers continue to be out in communities – engaging, explaining and encouraging people to act responsibly and follow coronavirus rules. We will take enforcement action if necessary.

"We’ve increased targeted patrols, working in partnership with local authorities, licensing authorities and businesses to ensure the rules are being followed.”

Covid-19 cases and deaths in East Herts and Uttlesford

In East Herts in the week from Sunday October 11 to Saturday October 17, there were 133 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases – three fewer than in the previous week – and the case rate per 100,000 population was 89.

In Uttlesford in the same period, there were 66 cases – up six from the week before – and the rate of cases per 100,000 people was 72.

As of Tuesday (Oct 20), the seven-day rolling average for Covid cases in East Herts is 19.9 a day – down on the October 6 peak of 23.4. Uttlesford's seven-day rolling average is 10.1 cases a day.

The rolling case rate per 100,000 population in Stortford is above the East Herts average of 97.5 in four of the town's five districts. Stortford North's rate per 100,000 is 179.9 – equivalent to one in 555 people. Stortford East's 77.9 is the lowest.

In all, there have been 955 cases in East Herts and 609 in Uttlesford from the start of the pandemic until Tuesday (Oct 20), with 102 coronavirus-related deaths in East Herts and 63 in Uttlesford registered to October 9.

In the week up to Saturday (Oct 17), no new deaths where a Covid-19 positive test result had occurred within 28 days were registered in East Herts or Uttlesford.

No new deaths have been registered at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow since October 13, with the total standing at 205 since March.

After recording 32 deaths in the East of England in the 18 days from September 24 to October 12, the seven days up to October 19 saw another 24.

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