By Rachael Grealish
Four of Cumbria’s MPs have shared their support for the county entering Tier 4 following a sharp rise in COVID cases, and their disappointment.
As of today, Thursday December 31, Cumbria made a jump from Tier 2 to Tier 4 – joining three quarters of the country which now reside in the highest level tier.
The Herdwick News approached all six Cumbrian MPs – Trudy Harrison, Mark Jenkinson, Dr Neil Hudson, Simon Fell, John Stevenson and Tim Farron – for their thoughts on the sudden change.
Each MP recognised the frustration and disappointment caused by the tier change, but expressed their support to the government’s decision.
The MP for Copeland, Trudy Harrison, reflected on the 200 percent rise in cases among those in her constituency.
She said: “The Government’s decision to raise the tier level in Cumbria from 2 to 4 is not the news any of us wants to hear. However, this decision has not been taken lightly with much consideration being given to the rate of increase of Covid cases across our county.
“Copeland has done well to have had minimal cases, however, the trend is now dramatically upwards and in Copeland we are experiencing a 200% rise in infection rates including the new variants which have higher transmissibility.
“Our hospitals have seen a big increase in the number of Covid patients admitted and health services are under considerable pressure.
“It is imperative that we all continue to follow the basic advice of hands, face, space to ensure that we protect ourselves and others from a disease which kills.
“There have been 981 deaths over the past 24 hours with over 50,023 new cases recorded. Our NHS staff must be protected. Moving to the highest tier 4 level highlights the responsibility on us all to protect our NHS and save lives.”
Workington’s MP Mark Jenkinson was among his colleagues in urging his constituents to support this decision in order to protect the NHS.
He said: “There are no longer any Tier 2 areas in England. While I recognise that this will come as a disappointment for many, cases are rising sharply across Cumbria, and we remain unsure of the effect of the new variant.
“Our health infrastructure, shared across Cumbria, is under significant pressure – with hospital admissions in the latest data at levels not seen since April. I urge my constituents to follow the guidance.”
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and the Border, recognised the upset caused, but spoke of the hope given by the news the Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine having been approved.
“I attended a Department of Health and Social Care Briefing earlier today and sadly the epidemiological data indicate that these stricter measures are now necessary for our area in our fight to control this virus,” he explained.
“I know this will be frustrating and upsetting for many, not least the businesses that will be severely impacted, but I firmly believe the Government is right to be pursuing this approach in order to keep us safe and protect the NHS.
“The good news today that a second vaccine against Covid-19 has now been approved for use by the Medicines Regulator means that hope is on its way, but we need to keep observing these strict public health measures in the meantime until the vaccine has been rolled out fully.
Simon Fell, MP for Barrow & Furness, although shared his support of the measures, shared his own disappointment at the Tier change following his constituents’ ‘hard work to get their rates down’.
Mr Fell says this should’ve been reflected in the decision making process of moving the county tier.
He said: “While we are seeing significant rises in the number of cases of the new variant of the virus in Cumbria, people in Barrow have put in the hard work to get their rates down recently and I believe that should have been reflected in the decision taken.
“It is worth noting that there is ongoing pressure on our hospital trust, which we must stay alive to. I would urge people from across Furness to stick to the new Tier 4 rules to protect the most vulnerable in our community and remember the mantra of hands, face, space.”
John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, and Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale have both been approached for a comment on the tier change.
Cumbria is now among three quarters of England in the highest tier where rules are not dissimilar to that of the national lockdown.
The next review date for the tier system is due on January 13, 2021, but currently COVID cases are on the rise due to the more easily transmissible new variant of the virus.
Information on Tier 4: Stay at home rules and guidelines can be found HERE.