Coronavirus: What is Tier 1 Plus?

The tier within a tier has targeted actions to stem the spread of the virus

Emily Goddard
Wednesday 28 October 2020 16:52

Bristol became the first place in the UK to move into Tier 1 Plus coronavirus measures after it added the novel term to the national dialogue on Wednesday.

The council decided to escalate the local response to Covid-19 as infections in the city rose by 1,579 in the last seven days to bring the total number of cases to 5,339 since the start of the pandemic.

Despite usually having an infection rate lower than the national average, Bristol now has 340.7 cases per 100,000 people compared with the English average of 222.8.

The R rate for the southwest has also risen and is now between 1.3 and 1.6.

The need for action is clear, but what exactly does Tier 1 Plus mean? Will Bristolians notice a significant change locally or is it just another three-part slogan?

What does Tier 1 Plus mean?

The phrase Tier 1 Plus is a local term and not something from the government, a Bristol City Council spokesperson told The Independent.

Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, says the approach means the city remains in Tier 1 but with the addition of “targeted interventions” to influence people’s behaviour and stem the spread of the virus.

What restrictions could be introduced?

At the moment, it looks like little will change for Bristolians, but Bristol City Council says there are several strands to the new level of response.

The one likely to be most noticeable is the presence of eight Covid-19 marshals on the streets. They are being introduced to ensure compliance with regulations in the area, but Rees has insisted their role would be “supportive” rather than one of enforcement — that responsibility will remain with the police and local authority.

The marshals will signpost the public to cleaning touch points, direct pedestrians, help businesses manage queues and offer guidance to the nighttime economy to prevent mixing.

Enforcement remains important though, the council says, and it has visited more than 4,500 premises and businesses to ensure compliance. One venue, which has not been named, has since been closed for not providing a Covid-safe environment.

Secondly, the city council says it will take greater local control over test and trace after the national system “had not worked as well as we would have liked”.

This includes taking on responsibility for test and trace in the area where the national scheme is “failing”, as well as looking at the data and understanding the numbers to avoid using a one-size-fits-all approach, Rees said. He added that Bristol will continue to lobby for resources from government to support this aim.

Tier 1 Plus also introduces a targeted focus on working adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years old, although it is not entirely clear what this means. Christina Gray, Bristol’s director of public health, says preventing the virus from spreading in this age group is vital to prevent transmission to older and vulnerable people.

What happens if the infection rate continues to rise under Tier 1 Plus conditions?

Gray says “nothing is off the table” with regards to the introduction of tougher restrictions.

And Rees warns the city would move into Tier 2 or 3 if the new measures are not successful in bringing down the rate of infection.

“This happens incredibly quickly so it could be a matter of days until those options come right into our face and decisions have to be made,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.

Could it be rolled out nationally?

No. The Department of Health and Social Care says it is “not considering the introduction of a ‘plus’ system” over the existing three tiers that are “enshrined in law”.

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