The Isle of Wight has been placed in Tier 4 - the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions.
It has been confirmed that the Island - and its 140,000 population - will face tighter rules from midnight tonight.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon (Wednesday). He said:
"The NHS is under very significant pressure. We can see the impact this is having. The threat to life is real and the pressures are real too."
The announcement comes less than a month after the Island was placed into Tier 1 - the lowest level of restrictions.
That was up until last week when Islanders were told they would be moving into Tier 3.At the time, the Isle of Wight Council leader feared the 'new strain' of coronavirus had reached the Island.
Cllr Dave Stewart blamed a "sharp rise in cases" for the move.
Since then, the Island's case rate has risen to 227.1 per 100,000.
Reacting to today's news, Cllr Stewart said:
"Sadly, our case numbers have risen rapidly just prior to the Christmas period; far faster than at any other point throughout the pandemic.
“All of the good work we have been doing to protect our Island community from this virus seems to have been undone in a very short space of time, which goes to show how dangerous this virus is. We cannot let our guard down for a moment.
“Sadly it seems that some in our community have forgotten this, but I hope that this change of tiers will serve as a reminder to them not to act selfishly and follow the guidance. You may gamble that you might only get a mild infection, but are you willing to gamble you won’t pass it on to the person you are sitting beside and that they will not get the infection in a far more serious way?
“The highest level of restrictions is now upon us with Tier 4 – a mere week or so since we were in Tier 1, the lowest level.
“Please, keep the Island safe – keep your friends, family and loved ones safe – stay at home.
“We all have high hopes for 2021, with the vaccine being rolled out and the promise of some normality returning, let’s bring the new year in sensibly and positively, by doing the right thing; protecting our community, friends, families, neighbours and most vulnerable people on the Island by staying at home one more time. We’ve done it before, we can do it again, and as we’re seeing elsewhere in the country, it slows the transmission of the virus.
"I am again really disappointed for all of our local businesses that have worked so hard with us to operate in a Covid-secure way. We are expecting further news of business grants to be available from next week which we will rollout as soon as we are able to those local businesses who need support.
“We must get infection rates down if we are to make the best of 2021 and the year ahead. Taking personal responsibility and making good choices continues to be the best way to protect yourself and those you love from the virus. We must all take action to protect each other and our hospital capacity.”
Simon Bryant, the Island's director of public health, said:
"We must bring the number of cases on the Island under control. We must be very cautious with what we do. You must stay at home.
"Please, for the safety of the Island, do not flout the rules or bend them to suit what you want to do. I know that this is a lot to ask and it is hard for people who want to see friends and family on New Year's Eve - but please don't meet up in person. We have the power to slow the spread of the virus through our own behaviours – it’s people and close contact that spread COVID-19 and why we’ve seen our cases rise – please make the right choice and stay at home.
"If you have symptoms, self-isolate - do not leave your home for any reason at all - and book a test. Test slots are released daily. The best time to book a test is around 8am or 8pm each day on the government website or by calling 119. You can also book home testing kits if you're unable to get a test at the testing site.
“Remember, around one in three people with Covid-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the virus without realising."
What does Tier 4 mean?
A new “stay at home” message will now be introduced across the Island. It means Isle of Wight households are not allowed to mix, unless they are part of a support bubble.
Other rules include:
- Islanders can meet with one other person outside in a public space and exercise is unlimited, however.
- Under Tier 4 restrictions, non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues must stay closed.
- If people cannot work from home, they will still be allowed to travel to work.
- Travelling is not permitted unless a reasonable excuse is given (for example, for work or education purposes).
- Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home, and cannot travel abroad.
A full list of rules can be found on the Government's website.
Isle of Wight case rates
The Isle of Wight's seven-day rolling rate stands at 227.1 per 100,000.
Yesterday (Wednesday), 44 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed on the Isle of Wight.
It takes the total here, since the start of the pandemic, to 1,517.
Earlier today, Isle of Wight Radio revealed that the Cowes, Newport and Ryde top the list of areas with the highest case rates.
All three of those towns saw an increase in COVID-19 cases in the week leading up to Christmas Eve (24).
You can find out how your area fares by using the Government's interactive map, here.