The rest of the county will remain at ‘medium’ (tier 1) level at the present time.
The national three-tier system, which was recently introduced in England, classifies areas as medium (tier 1), high (tier 2) or very high (tier 3), based on their numbers of infection and overall risk level.
What will change?
The move from tier 1 to tier 2 will result in the introduction of a number of additional restrictions in the city of Oxford. Overall, it means that Oxford residents will not be permitted to socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. You can read more on the government’s website about what ‘high’ restrictions will entail.
Why is Oxford moving?
Oxford city will move into tier 2 as a preventative measure to stem the transmission rate and protect our most vulnerable residents.
Over the past three weeks, we have not only seen a continued rise in cases in the city, but increasing evidence of the spread of the virus, beyond people in their teens and twenties, to older and potentially more vulnerable age groups. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.
We know that transmission of the virus takes place largely as a result of inter-household mixing. By moving Oxford into tier 2, which prevents households from mixing in indoor settings, we are taking preventative measures to stop the situation from escalating further. This is particularly important with events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali approaching, when many households will be planning to come together to socialise.
Keeping all our residents safe
The central government decision to move Oxford into tier 2 follows intensive discussions between local authority partners, MPs, central government and Public Health England. All partners across the Oxfordshire system had strongly advocated for the county as a whole to move to tier 2 on account of rising cases across all districts combined with the spread of the virus beyond people in their teens and twenties to older and potentially more vulnerable age groups.
We are disappointed that, despite clear evidence showing the virus is now spreading rapidly across the county, the decision was taken to move just Oxford into tier 2 at the present time. However, we will continue to push for the rest of the county to move as soon as possible.
We realise that having Oxford in a different tier to the rest of the county adds complexity. To help with this, we are publishing a comprehensive set of Q&As about the new restrictions on our website at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/highalertlevel. These set out the rules residents need to follow in high alert areas and provide advice for those who regularly travel between areas in different tiers, for example to go to work or school.
We will be working with partners across the Oxfordshire system to issue extended communications informing residents about the new alert level and urging people to adhere to the new restrictions. We would be very grateful for your support in promoting these messages to your constituents and urging all residents across the county to continue to follow prevention measures, including keeping your distance, washing your hands frequently, and using a face covering.
Yvonne Rees and Ansaf Azhar
Chief Executive Director of Public Health