Shropshire Star comment: Frustration around West Midlands tier decision understandable

A collective groan could be heard across parts of the region when Matt Hancock announced the latest set of Covid restrictions.

Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock

This year has seen months of harsh national measures, followed by a brief respite and then the four weeks of lockdown that we are currently being subjected to.

Without doubt, it has been a miserable experience for all and sundry, particularly those who work in the hospitality industry.

Being plunged into Tier 3 measures was certainly not the early Christmas present that people in the Black Country, Staffordshire and Birmingham would have asked for.

And while those who live in Shropshire have been spared the highest alert level measures, they will still face stricter restrictions than they did prior to the current national lockdown.

For those in Tier 3, there will be no visits to pubs and restaurants for a few more weeks at least.

The public's frustration is entirely understandable, particularly when you consider the broad brush approach that the Government appears to have taken when deciding which measures to apply in each area.

For example, Cannock Chase is in Tier 3, even though it currently has lower infection rates than Telford, which is in Tier 2.

It might not make perfect sense, but the brutal truth is that across our region the number of cases is still extremely high.

Crucially, there is a worryingly high proportion of cases among people aged over-60, contributing to an increased strain on our local hospitals.

In such circumstances it is hard to find reasons to be cheerful, but here goes.

Across the Black Country and Staffordshire, infection rates have fallen sharply over the past week.

Should this trend continue, then it is entirely possible that the region could be taken out of Tier 2 when the measures are reviewed for the first time on December 16.

This would mean, among other things, that some pubs would be open for Christmas and small numbers of fans could return to live sporting events.

In Shropshire, there is genuine hope that further reductions in cases across the county could see it moved into Tier 1, which would really be something to celebrate.

There is a view among local health officials that relaxing measures at the start of December would be highly likely to lead to infection rates rising sharply by the middle of the month.

The consequences would be harsher restrictions imposed for Christmas.

In that case, it is probably better for us to take our medicine now in the expectation that measures will be loosened providing the virus is brought under control.

What we need now are assurances from the Government over exactly what is required for us to move down the tiering system.

And as a matter of urgency, a proper financial support package must be put in place.

Ministers must realise that thousands of pubs and restaurants in our area are on their last legs, with currently available grants nowhere near enough to cover the cost of prolonged periods of closure.

It is hard to look on the bright side, but with the roll out of a vaccine on the horizon, as well as mass testing, the future is not all bleak.

If we all continue to follow the rules, Christmas may not be quite as bleak as many of us had feared.

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