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Royal Borough to move into Tier 3 COVID restrictions

BREAKING: Royal Borough to move into Tier 3 COVID restrictions

The Royal Borough will be placed in the toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions from this weekend. 

The announcement today (Thursday) by Health Secretary Matt Hancock means that pubs and other hospitality venues must close, and there will be tougher limits on meeting others outdoors. 

The whole of Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire, will be in the 'Very High Alert' category - Tier 3 - from Saturday, December 19, following a review of the tier system this week. 

Follow our live blog below for the latest updates:


5:09pm

The council’s health lead Cllr Stuart Carroll has echoed the leader's view that the news was ‘disappointing’.

The Royal Borough's COVID-19 cases have risen again throughout the last week following a brief period of decline. 

“At a national level there is a broader concern about the virus spreading far and wide and they [the Government] are looking at broader geographical areas,” he told the Advertiser and Express today (Thursday). 

“But it is disappointing. We very much wanted to stay in Tier 2 because we are aware of the impact this has on local business, and we will work with Government to ensure that the appropriate support packages are put in place.”

Cllr Carroll added he ‘deeply sympathises’ with the position businesses are in and that the arts, culture and charitable sector would also need to be supported during another difficult time for them.

He also urged people to make contact virtually with others who may be struggling with the news.

“Contact is really important, even if it can’t be physical,” he said.

When asked whether the borough could get through another period of disruption, Cllr Carroll said: “I am confident we can get through it. I do think we have seen an incredible community resolve, whether that is volunteering, people looking out for one another.”

Cllr Carroll added that conversations are taking place between all five local authorities in Berkshire about the next steps, as it seeks a way to move back down to Tier 2.

“There is already that co-operation and collaboration,” he said.


3.28pm

Fans of Rebellion Beer will still be able to have their thirst quenched when Bucks and Berks enters Tier 3.


3.23pm

The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced today.

Rishi Sunak has revealed that the Government will continue to contribute 80 per cent of wages to workers on the job retention scheme for a month longer than expected.

He said: "Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.

“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support."


3.14pm

'It will have a catastrophic impact with no end in sight'

More Royal Borough businesses have reacted to the news that Berkshire is moving into Tier 3. Read more here


1.54pm

Theatres in Windsor must close to performances, throwing a spanner in the works for those shows scheduled in the run-up to Christmas.

Martin Cabble-Reid is an actor at the Theatre Royal Windsor and a member of the Kevin Cruise foundation, which gives out free tickets for pantomime to disadvantaged families.

“We’ve handed out around 200-300 free pantomime tickets, but there’s still 150 left to be handed out and those disadvantaged families can’t use those tickets now,” he said.

“It’s terrible that this has happened during one of our best shows we have ever put together.”

The theatre’s last showing of its production of Cinderella is tonight but there are hopes the shows can be extended further into January, since they have been extended once already.

“For me as an actor it’s devastating, panto is a huge part of my earnings for the year,” said Martin. “The dancers and performers aren’t on the books, they can’t go on furlough, so it’s just lost work for them.”


1.30pm

Norden Farm will be closed to the public once again from Saturday and will be moving its shows, productions and classes online. Its production of Pinocchio will be live-streamed next week.

“We’re really sad we have gone into Tier 3 but we understand we all need to do our part against COVID,” said Jane Corry, chief executive and artistic director at Norden Farm.

Norden Farm’s café will open Wednesday to Saturday, offering takeaway that can be ordered online, by phone or on the Butler app. These can be picked up from an outdoor pick up point.

“We would usually hold our markets in the Long Barn, and now we are moving these outside to make them COVID-safe,” said Jane.

As open air markets are still allowed in Tier 3, Norden Farm will hold its first outdoor festive night market today and a festive artisan fair tomorrow.

“We have really honed out skills over the last few months around moving our program online,” said Jane. “Christmas is very much not cancelled at Norden Farm.”


12.31pm

Leader of the Royal Borough, Cllr Andrew Johnson, has said in a statement he is 'concerned about the damage Tier 3 will do' after the borough was moved into the category as of this weekend. 

He also urged people to use caution ahead of a relaxing of rules at Christmas, saying COVID-19 is an 'unwanted gift you can't return'. 

“We’re disappointed that we have been moved into Tier 3. It’s not what we wanted but Government considers the rates in our neighbouring authorities in its analysis," he said. 

“I am particularly concerned about the damage Tier 3 will do to local businesses across the Royal Borough and we will continue to do all we can to support them, as a council, but we also hope you’ll help by using them – albeit safely. 

"The next few weeks are critical. We still have significant community transmission and we anticipate there will be a rise in cases from the ‘Christmas bubble’. 

“COVID-19 does not care about Christmas. Your home is still the number one place where you’re likely to catch it so please use your judgement about the number of people you see, and the time you spend with them.

"Keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Don’t give COVID-19 this Christmas - it’s the unwanted gift you can’t return."

Yesterday, ahead of the announcement on tier reviews, Cllr Stuart Carroll, the council's lead member for health, said that moving into Tier 3 would be of 'profound concern'.

He said that the borough's cases are in line with Tier 2 classification, but he was waiting on a Government-led decision to be made. 


12:18pm

The Royal Borough being placed in Tier 3 means a change to the rules that people and businesses must follow. 

Limits are placed on meeting people outdoors and hospitality venues must close again. 

  • You must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or is not in your support bubble. This includes in any private garden or most outdoor venues.
  • You must not socialise in groups of more than six in some outdoor public spaces including parks, beaches and the countryside.
  • Hospitality settings such as pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants must close but can continue offering a takeaway service.
  • Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs campsites and guest houses must close. Exemptions are in place for those who use these venues as their main residence.
  • Indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close. This includes indoor play centres, casinos, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, amusement arcades, cinemas, theatres and snooker halls.
  • Leisure facilities can continue to stay open but group exercise classes should not go ahead.
  • Fans should not attend spectator sports and non-elite sport must continue behind-closed-doors, meaning the shutout of supporters at Maidenhead United's York Road ground.
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead but numbers will be restricted. 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies but receptions will be banned.

BREAKING, 12:04pm:

The Royal Borough will move into the toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions from this weekend, it has been announced.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP told the House of Commons earlier that Tier 3 is necessary in parts of the south east of England - including both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The Royal Borough tweeted today (Thursday) to say that it, along with the rest of the county, would in the 'very high alert' category. 

More information is expected from the Royal Borough shortly. 

The new rules will take effect from Saturday, December 19. 

Buckinghamshire Council has released a statement in relation to the announcement. Leader Cllr Martin Tett said 'this definitely isn't the news we wanted'. 

He added he was 'bitterly disappointed' that the county had moved from Tier 1 to Tier 3 in a matter of weeks, particularly after the efforts made during the recent second lockdown.

He had warned his cabinet this week about a potential move to Tier 3. 

"So soon after the good news about the vaccine roll out, if anyone needed a reminder about how serious a threat coronavirus remains, then this is it," Cllr Tett said.

"We've seen cases sharply rising again locally which is clearly the wrong direction and going into Tier 3 now brings additional restrictions and pressures, particularly for our local economy, that nobody wanted to see. 

"This definitely isn't the news we wanted, but we'll continue working with our Members of Parliament, the Buckinghamshire NHS and local business organisations to understand the full implications for our residents, our businesses and of course for people's health and wellbeing.

"It remains imperative that everyone in Buckinghamshire follows the rules laid out, this is going to mean difficulties, tough choices and personal sacrifices particularly over the Christmas and New Year period. 

"But, it's the best way to beat COVID-19, get infection rates down and for the country to gain back the upper hand against this deadly virus."  

More to follow. 

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