Tier 2 restrictions: An open letter from Public Health Dorset

Over the last few days, lots of people have been asking us: Why has the government placed both Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Councils into Tier 2 restrictions?

We understand that many people will be frustrated and disappointed by the decision about going into Tier 2 on 2 December. On public health grounds, we support the decision the government has taken. This is based purely from the perspective of the need to reduce our infection rates. Before lockdown on 5 November, infection rates were climbing rapidly in both council areas. Both areas were under Tier 1 measures and this was not enough to control the spread of the virus, which is passing mainly through contact between households.

If we exited lockdown at our current infection rates, then Tier 1 restrictions would not be enough to continue to bring rates down, and we would risk having to go back into tougher measures. Avoiding this potential yo-yo situation is a more sensible course of action, although we appreciate the difficulties that the restrictions are bringing for us all.

Several factors are considered when looking at the tier system, it’s not just about our headline infection rates. The government also looks at the infection rate in older people, the impact on our care sector, and pressure on our local hospitals - all of which continue to be a concern in both council areas. Taking into account all of these measures, it is our view that Dorset Council would still be placed into Tier 2 restrictions, even discounting the higher rates in the BCP Council area.

Collectively across the county we have a plan and roadmap to reach Tier 1. To achieve further freedoms, we need to keep faith in obeying the rules now. Stopping and limiting social mixing between households will bring our infection rates down. If we all continue to do that, as hard as it is, we stand a good chance of reaching the next review on December 16 with a strong chance of a positive decision to move to Tier 1. If infection rates continue to fall, we can expect less pressure on our hospitals, and a falling infection rate in our older population, all of which will be crucial in how that decision is made.

We’ve also been asked whether our hospitals could effectively be considered separately for each council, to support the decision-making process. This would be extremely difficult because of the way that our health and care system operate. We have a single integrated care system, spanning both council areas. The acute hospitals each admit patients from across the county, from both council areas. We need to balance pressures in the hospital system so NHS colleagues work as a single system to make sure as much capacity as possible is available in the right place at the right time.

We realise that there are many other considerations affecting people's health and wellbeing as the pandemic continues. There is a real need to keep our local NHS services from being overwhelmed. To make sure we have the right level of critical care capacity, to care for everyone who needs it, we consider it necessary to make this tough decision now. Tier 2 is the right decision now to secure a better chance of a more sustainable future and a return to low COVID rates.

Please do your bit and help us to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Dorset.  

Public Health Dorset

This letter is also available as a video in British Sign Language.

Published on:
30/11/2020, 00:00