What we learned as experts explain reasons behind Tier Two request

Experts here in Essex have given their reasoning behind why they want the county to be placed into Tier Two Covid-19 restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week announced a new system to help tackle the increase in virus cases seen across the country recently.

Areas are now being placed into different tiers depending on if they are medium, high or very high risk.

Essex currently sits at a medium risk but the county council has asked the government to move the area up into Tier Two – high risk.

Councillor John Spence and Dr Gogarty spoke to EssexLive reporter, Louise Lazell, doing a live Facebook Q&A to give their reasoning behind the request and what it could mean for residents.

Here is what we learnt from Essex County Council experts explaining its Tier Two request:

1. Acting now is better than waiting

One of the first things Councillor Spence and Dr Gogarty were asked, was why they have requested the county is placed into Tier Two.

Councillor Spence explained that cases have been increasing in the county and they are desperate to tackle the issue sooner rather than later.

He said: “When you see that we’ve gone to doubling or quadrupling our cases over a month you can see the inevitability of what’s the come.

“So we are faced with a choice – do we do something now to nip it in the bud, to prevent further problems or do we wait until we’re so bad that the government put us into Tier Two?

“We decided that the best thing to do is to prevent. To prevent a much more severe and longer lockdown of the economy because things have got so bad, to prevent a situation where more and more people have the illness and we have a much higher climb to get out of the mess that we’re in.”

Dr Gogarty added: “The reality is that we’re going to be hitting a level within a couple of weeks whereby the secretary of state is going to say you have to be in alert level two and we believe that if we go into alert level two, it’s like putting the brakes on a car at 20mph rather than 70mph.

“You can turn it around quicker, get out of it quicker and that’s what the logic is – to protect the people of Essex.”

2. It could avoid Essex being placed into Tier 3

Councillor Spence and Dr Gogarty explained that this request could ensure that Essex will not need to be placed into Tier Three which could have far stricter restrictions on people.

Dr Gogarty said: “If we leave this for two or three weeks until the Secretary of State says we need to do something in Essex, we will have a much, much more difficult problem to deal with unless we can get in now with the restrictions.

“The hope is we can manage it quicker and more effectively.”

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3. This will not be solved by Tier Two alone

Councillor Spence said that there is no definite evidence of what particular interventions will work unless a full lockdown was put in place again.

However he stressed no one wants another lockdown and that the council does have evidence of what is not working right now.

He said: “We cannot go on as we’re doing now.

“We do have evidence that a lot of residents have found it difficult to stick to those key principles of washing hands, keeping your distance, standing two-metres apart, wearing masks, and if being asked to isolate doing so.

“You will not solve this by going into Tier Two alone. We need people to get back to those principles.”

4. There could be more visible enforcement

To help tackle the spread and ensure people are sticking to the rules, there could be more visible enforcement in the county, Councillor Spence said.

He said: “We will be investing in more visible enforcement so that people know that they are likely to be picked up, advised and educated and if need be penalised when they break those rules.”

As well as this he said that there would be more investment into track and trace systems.

5. The council gets no financial aid for moving into Tier Two

Rumours online has been growing as to whether the council gets money from the government if the county is placed into Tier Two.

Responding to this, Councillor Spence said: “This piece going on social media that we have somehow done this for the money could not be more misplaced.

“I refute it entirely. Firstly all the government has said is that there might be more money for people in Tier Two and Tier Three.

“I would have no idea how much is involved but I suspect it will overwhelmingly go to Tier Three situations.”

Councillor Spence added that money has not ever been mentioned.

Dr Gogarty said: “This is where a Freedom of Information Act may be welcome to the council because actually you will find nothing about money in this.

“I’m a doctor, I’m responsible for the well-being of this population and that is what has entirely driven my decision.

“I didn’t even think about money until it was mentioned on social media yesterday.”

6. The government could decide on the request within days

The government will be responding to the request likely within days, according to the experts.

Dr Gogarty explained how they have to inform regional officers of their request who then take it forward to the government.

The Secretary of State will then make the final decision which could be in a few days.

It is not clear however how long it would take for Essex to be placed into Tier Two if the government approve the request.

7. Surrounding authorities like Southend and Thurrock could do the same

Southend and Thurrock are unitary authorities which would mean they would not be a part of Tier Two should Essex County Council’s request be approved.

Explaining what this would mean for residents who may have family or friends in these areas, Councillor Spence said: “Just as if they go to visit a friend in Suffolk or somebody in Cambridgeshire, at the moment there will be no restrictions there and those visits can be made.

“All we would say to the residents of Essex is that we’re doing this reluctantly, we believe it’s the right thing to do, therefore if you are going visiting, please make sure you keep your distance.

“We are also in no doubt that the rates in those counties are also very rapid.”

Dr Gogarty, when asked if this could cause a concern if people are intermingling between the two tiers, said: “It’s never going to be a fool proof approach but the reality is that it’s very likely within two or three weeks that those areas – London, Hertfordshire, Suffolk – are likely to be in exactly the same position.

“They’re likely to be told by the Secretary of State that they need to be moved into Tier Two because they are showing the same sorts of growth

“All it would mean is that Essex would have the earlier opportunity to start flattening that curve and work on it but in the longer term these areas, particularly London, will move into the same place that we want to be.”

Essex Live