I understand, and share, the disappointment and frustration that North Dorset and, indeed, the whole of Dorset will be placed into Tier 2 from this week. Last week, I spoke directly to the Health Minister to make the case that Dorset should be assessed according to council rather than County boundaries and I hope this will be the case when the data is reviewed in mid-December.
However, recent evaluation of the data suggests that even if Dorset and BCP council areas had been assessed separately, Dorset Council area would still have been placed into Tier 2 for two reasons. The first reason being that hospital admission figures are up. The second, that the R rate amongst the over-60s in Dorset remains higher than amongst those under-60, and in North Dorset specifically there are more over-60s than anywhere else in the County. As you may know, decisions on which area goes into which tier are primarily based on five key epidemiological indicators, including case detection rates in the over-60s. We must now face into this reality. With the best will in the word, people will be bored, angry, upset and finding the situation incredibly difficult. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, with a vaccine on the horizon and a review of the Tier system in two weeks’ time, which will be of some comfort, but we are still in a tunnel. Until we know what the regulators say, and if we are eager to move to a Tier 1 area, it is more important than ever that we abide by the rules. If we fail to, or don’t want to, we will remain in Tier 2 or face the very real possibility of escalating to a Tier 3 area.
This week, we will go into a Tier 2 area; that is set and nothing will change that scenario. What we should now focus on is how we get into Tier 1. We must put our energies into what we can change, rather than that which is unchangeable. If we do not follow the Tier 2 rules, let us not be surprised if our local restrictions are not eased. I am pleased that many businesses and activities will be able to resume again this week, but it is really important that we all ensure we are following the guidelines in place for Tier 2 areas, such as not mixing indoors with anyone outside of our households or support bubbles. Full information on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-kn…
Without doubt, there is myriad opinion out there in North Dorset. I have been told that I should be advocating for a complete lockdown and that I should be advocating for all restrictions to be lifted. I have been told that we should close all retail and that all retail should remain open. I have received correspondence demanding that we close all the schools and other correspondence saying they should stay open. I have received detailed and impassioned communication arguing that we should go into Tiers 1, 2, 3 and everything in between. We are dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances and judgements must be made. We will only know if they were the right judgments once we have the opportunity to assess the data after enough time has elapsed. We cannot put off taking the decisions and they have all been made and taken in good faith. Against the above backdrop I will be, reluctantly, voting for the Tiers proposition.
Nobody goes into public service to frustrate our way of life and I know there is a lot of concern for decisions that have been made this year. As a Tory, my Party’s deep instinct is to champion liberty and business and a lot of these decisions are entirely counter-intuitive to our political way of thinking. However, the fact that it is Tory Ministers who are making these incredibly difficult and finely balanced judgement calls should underline how serious the situation is.
I thought it might be helpful to share copy of the letter from Sam Crowe, Director of Public Health Dorset, explaining the situation in relation to Dorset being in Tier 2. For detailed information on cases in our area, please see: https://www.publichealthdorset.org.uk/your-health/protecting-your-healt….