TODAY Buckinghamshire learned it will be placed into tier three before Christmas, the highest alert category.

In a statement in the House of Commons, secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, said infection rates in the South East were up 46 per cent – and to ‘prevent the NHS being overwhelmed and to protect life’, the county would leave tier two and enter the ‘very high’ tier.

He added: “Everyone has personal a responsibility in keeping this pandemic under control.”

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The new, tougher restrictions are due to come into force at 00.01am, on Saturday, December 19.

“No one wants tougher restrictions for longer than necessary,” added Mr Hancock.

The change comes after the first formal review of coronavirus tier restrictions, on December 16. Future reviews are expected to happen every two weeks.

Earlier this week, Buckinghamshire Council leader Cllr Martin Tett led a Cabinet meeting saying he ‘anticipated’ the entire county could be placed into tier three after a “rapid” rise in infections across all areas.

Then, in an update to residents published yesterday (December 16), Cllr Tett said: “The infection rates over the previous seven days, are indicating a sharp and continuous rise…across all areas of Buckinghamshire.”

READ MORE: Leader ‘anticipates’ Bucks could face tier three after ‘rapid rise’ in COVID cases

He said while many people are following the rules, “a significant minority are not”.

During the Cabinet meeting, Cllr Tett said while he is “well aware” of what tougher restrictions could mean for the local economy, he is also concerned about the “extreme pressure” on local health services.

“If the infection rates continue to rise after Christmas there could be a really serious situation in the local NHS,” he warned at the time.

Then, yesterday, he added: “I have been meeting with our NHS colleagues who also report that they are now experiencing severe pressure.”

“I have to stress that despite the vaccine now being available in Buckinghamshire, we still only have limited supplies and it will take many months before even the most vulnerable are vaccinated,” he said.

Buckinghamshire has seen its weekly rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 residents climbing since October.

In just over a week, Cllr Tett said he had witnessed the infection rates per 100,000 people rise from 118 to 142 for ‘all ages across Buckinghamshire’.

The currently weekly rate now stands at 211, according to Buckinghamshire Council’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

Confirmed cases in Buckinghamshire, as of December 16, stands at 9,790.

What are the rules under tier three?

  • No household mixing in or outdoors, in gardens, or hospitality venues
  • Rule of six outdoors
  • Pubs and restaurants should be closed, except for delivery and takeaway services
  • Indoor entertainment venues should close
  • People should avoid travelling in and out of the area
  • Hairdressers can continue to operate