Update from Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council

From today (Wednesday 2 December) the national lockdown is lifted and England is now following the local restriction tier system. Buckinghamshire has been placed in Tier 2, which means everyone who lives in the county has to the follow the ‘Tier 2’ rules. These rules apply to all households, businesses and venues in Bucks.

Last time I wrote, I expressed how disappointed I am that we have been placed in Tier 2, and I know many of you share that frustration. Since then I have discussed this decision at length with local Public Health and NHS officials, alongside our members of Parliament. What is clear is that the decision on which tier an area is in does not just depend upon the local infection rate but is based on a number of local factors, including the existing and predicted pressure on the local hospitals. This is not just pressure from COVID but includes the urgent need to catch up with delayed treatment of other important conditions such as cancer.

Looking forward, if we can keep bringing down the numbers of COVID cases here in Buckinghamshire and the pressure on our hospitals ease, we will have a strong case for moving to Tier 1 measures, and that’s what I want us all to aim for.

You can see the latest figures for Buckinghamshire on the new COVID dashboard on our website.

Now December is here I know Christmas is increasingly on our minds, not least as many of us are desperate for a bit of festive cheer after what 2020 has thrown at us! So do read the section below on local shopping, ‘Christmas bubbles’ and the full guidance for the Christmas period.

Christmas shopping!

Today our shops, restaurants and many pubs reopen across Buckinghamshire. I hope that everyone will take the opportunity to spread a little Christmas cheer by shopping locally and giving their support to our own high streets and hospitality sector.

We are absolutely committed to supporting all our local businesses through this challenging period and I am intending for Buckinghamshire to take full advantage of the proposed relaxation of shopping hours over the festive period and into January. This will be done in a careful way taking into account any impact on nearby residents.

If you’ve found a great present at a local Buckinghamshire business, spread the joy and give the business a shout out on our Facebook and Instagram accounts using #MerryClickmas. Many Buckinghamshire businesses will be part of this year’s national Small Business Saturday event this Saturday (5 December). You can find Bucks small businesses close to you via this link.

Lastly, we all know how incredibly tough these restrictions have been on our local businesses. Don’t forget – if you’re a business that has been badly impacted by the recent restrictions then check the Bucks Business Grants information on our website.

Tier 2 rules

After my last email we also had a few questions about what the Tier 2 rules are in Bucks from today, so I wanted to outline the new guidance in more detail.

The following rules  set by national government  apply to all areas in Tier 2 in England, which currently includes Buckinghamshire:

 

  • You cannot socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with, unless in a support bubble with them. That includes in private homes and in public places like pubs and restaurants (there’s more on support bubbles below as these have been extended so new rules now apply)
  • If you do go to a pub or restaurant, you can only sit with people you live with if indoors (or people in your support bubble), and you cannot mingle with other households indoors even if you know them. You can meet in groups of up to six people at a pub or restaurant if sitting outside and ordering a substantial meal
  • You can meet in groups of up to six people outdoors including in a garden or in a public space
  • Pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants
  • Hospitality businesses can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’ and if alcohol is being served, venues must provide table service
  • Leisure centres, libraries and gyms can reopen with COVID-secure measures in place
  • Places of worship can open but you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with whilst indoors at a place of worship, unless you are in a support bubble with them
  • If you travel to a Tier 1 area, you must continue to follow the Tier 2 rules. You should avoid travel to, or overnight stays in a Tier 3 area unless it’s essential (please note all neighbouring areas to Bucks are also in Tier 2 apart from Slough which is in Tier 3, so please take time to read the Tier 3 advice if you need to go into Slough as it is currently subject to different regulations)
  • You should work from home if you’re able to, in agreement with your employer. This is the case for all tiers
  • Schools, colleges and universities remain open; this is the case for all tiers
  • Personal care services and businesses like hairdressers and nail salons can open operating in a COVID-secure manner; this is the case for all tiers
  • Children whose parents do not live together can continue to move between households

It is impossible to cover all scenarios in this email, so please refer to the full government guidance for what you can and cannot do, and for the list of exemptions to the rules above.

Don’t forget

If you or anyone you live with develops symptoms of coronavirus, the whole household MUST isolate immediately – which means staying at home.

Anyone with symptoms should book a test online, or via the NHS COVID-19 app or by calling 119.

If you want to see the guidance for your home address or if you are planning to travel somewhere else, you can use the Government’s postcode checker to see which tier rules you must follow.

We must all carry on doing the following to protect ourselves and each other:

 

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Keep 2 metres (around 6 feet) from anyone you don’t live with
  • Wear a face covering where required unless you are exempt

It’s also really important to keep indoor areas well ventilated with windows open where possible. I know it’s much colder but it’s so much safer to keep windows open or to air rooms regularly where possible.

Here’s the guidance in full for households where someone has symptoms of COVID-19.

Here’s the guidance for households with generations living together and those who are at higher risk from COVID-19.

Support and childcare bubbles

Quite a few people have asked about ‘support bubbles’ and ‘childcare bubbles’ so please read these links for the full information about what circumstances allow the formation of these bubbles.

A ‘support bubble’ allows two households to come together, where one of those households, e.g. a single person or someone with a young baby may otherwise be isolated under the restrictions. They can join with another household without the need to socially distance.

From today, the rules on support bubbles have been extended, e.g. people with a baby up to the age of 1 can form a support bubble with another household. Other than over the Christmas period, these are the only bubbles currently permitted.

Rules over Christmas

As you may well be aware, the Government has announced a relaxation of the rules between 23-27 December to allow families to get together for Christmas. It has also issued full guidance for the festive period covering topics like nativity plays, Christmas shopping and celebrating New Year’s Eve. Please read through this information carefully and we will be updating our website with comprehensive information about Christmas in the coming days.

People will be able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ of up to three separate households for 23-27 December only without the need to socially distance or face travel restrictions, regardless of the tier system. There are some important things to bear in mind:

  • You can only form one Christmas bubble (of up to 3 households) and not switch between bubbles once it’s agreed
  • The arrangements only cover the period 23-27 December. Then the rules will go back to the tier system including across the New Year period
  • You can only meet your Christmas bubble in private homes and gardens, at places of worship and stay in overnight rented accommodation. You cannot meet your Christmas bubble in a public indoor setting like a pub or restaurant
  • If planning a visit to a pub, café, bar or restaurant over Christmas then you need to follow the tier rules

You can read the full guidance on ‘Christmas bubbles’ here. As ever with this horrible virus, it’s best to err on the side of caution and we would still advise taking great care over the Christmas period to follow all the guidance on preventing the spread of COVID. The advice is to limit movements and interactions in the fortnight as much as possible before Christmas if you are considering forming a Christmas bubble. I’m sure we will all weigh up the risks appropriately especially where elderly relatives are concerned.

Christmas present appeal – Thank You!

 

I mentioned our Christmas present appeal for Bucks children in need in my last email. After the mailout we saw donations pour in to our JustGiving page, which has raised a fantastic amount. I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to you for your generosity and importantly, showing that you care about local families who are going through tough times. As you know, these gifts make all the difference to the children in Buckinghamshire who may not get anything else at all this Christmas, and it’s especially vital this year with so many vulnerable families and children struggling even more due to the impact of the pandemic.

There is still time to donate money to the JustGiving fund for us to buy and deliver a present direct – please click on this link. If you would prefer to choose a gift for a child in need, we can provide details of where to send it, or where you can drop it off. All the detail you need is here on our website.

Stay safe and protect Bucks,

          

Martin Tett

Leader, Buckinghamshire Council