The Folkestone and Hythe district currently has the lowest COVID-19 infection rate in England, with just 17 reported cases per 100,000 people. This compares to over 100 cases in some London Boroughs, and over 400 cases per 100,000 people in Greater Manchester, where the imposition of Tier 3 restrictions is being considered. The Folkestone and Hythe area is ranked by the government in tier 1, the lowest level of COVID social restrictions, and although infection rates have been rising in London and the south east, they remain low here, and well below those in tier 2 areas. In such locations, like Greater London, tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work, the rule of six continues to apply for socialising outdoors, for instance in a garden or public space like a park or beach, businesses and venues can continue to operate, but pubs and restaurants must ensure that customers consume food and drink only while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am. Schools, universities and places of worship remain open, but people may not mingle in groups of more than six. Weddings and funerals can still go ahead with restrictions on the numbers attending (15 and 30 respectively). Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with those they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport.
There is currently a debate about whether a policy of local lockdowns is practical or whether we should instead have a national two week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, to bring down the rising numbers of COVID 19 cases. It’s true that many people regularly move between places that currently have different levels of restrictions, but that affect is not levelling off the numbers of cases around the country. Infection rates in Lancashire for example remain significantly higher than in other locations in England. That is why I believe that where additional restrictions are made they should be as localised as possible. I cannot see what case could be made for a national lockdown, which could see schools and businesses closed in Folkestone and Hythe which has the lowest infection rate in England, ostensibly to control the spread in other parts of the country.
People have asked why the infection rate in Folkestone and Hythe is so much lower than elsewhere in the country. I’m sure in part it’s because local people have been assiduous in observing the guidance on social distancing and mask wearing. I know many local businesses have successfully adapted their space to safely accommodate as many customers as possible. We may also benefit from being on the coast and in the part of the UK that traditionally receives the most sunshine each year. Whatever the reasons though, the low infection rate makes a strong case for having restriction levels that best suit the local conditions.