Lincolnshire health bosses will not be drawn on tier system plans for county

Lincolnshire’s health bosses do not know and will not be drawn to guess which tier the county will end up in once the national lockdown ends on December 2 — but they should find out this Thursday.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his winter plans after the current national lockdown, including a revised three-tier system. He indicated more areas would fall into the higher tiers.

Lincolnshire was in the lowest tier and managed to escape moving into level two just days before the national restrictions kicked in. North and North East Lincolnshire were in tier two and were quickly edging up towards tier three.

Professor Derek Ward, Lincolnshire County Council’s director for public health, said on Tuesday it would not “be helpful if I tried to second guess” which tier the county will be in after December 2.

“To be honest, there’s no point in me speculating because I’ve not been told,” he said.

He denied the country was “in limbo” until Thursday though, as people could still strive to bring numbers down and businesses can prepare for reopening.

“Hope for the best and plan for the worst, and if we do that, then whatever happens — and I genuinely don’t know what [tier] we’ll be put in […] — we’ll be ready for it.”

He added that since the government planned to review tiers every 14 days, there was a chance Lincolnshire could end up in any of the three tiers at one point or another, depending on numbers.

It is also unclear if Lincolnshire would be under one tier as before, or if it would be split into smaller districts to tackle high numbers in places such as East Lindsey or Boston.

Hints as to Lincolnshire’s position might, however, be found in our current standing among the East Midlands neighbours.

Currently, the county has an infection rate of 314.4 per hundred thousand for the most recent seven day government figures up to November 18.

It sits below Leicestershire at 342.1 and Leicester at 454.8, but above Nottinghamshire at 258.5 and Nottingham at 236.1 — all of which were in tier three at the time the country went into lockdown.

Derby, which was in tier two prior to lockdown, had 333.5. Professor Ward, however, said all the rates had fallen in the most recent data to local health bosses.

Mass testing similar to Liverpool would not work if Lincolnshire was to go into tier three, Professor Ward advised.

Under government plans, any area placed into the highest tier would get a six-week boost in testing capacity.

But Professor Ward said he would prefer a more targeted approach — for instance focusing on food factory workers or care home residents and staff.

He added Christmas was also still an unknown to health bosses, with no information on any special dispensations passed down yet.

However, he called on people to stick to the guidance as far as possible when it came to the festive period.

“What everybody will understand is that the more you mix with other households, you are exposing yourself and potentially others to more risks. Connecting with households is part of the challenge.”