Residents in a suburb of Bristol have slammed the ‘absolutely ridiculous’ and ‘ludicrous’ tier system which has seen their hometown split across Tier 2 and Tier 3.
Residents in one half of Whitchurch face one set of coronavirus restrictions, while the other falls under the jurisdiction of another council, so has fewer curbs.
The side of Whitchurch near Bristol falls under the remit of Bristol City Council which begins life in the harshest Tier 3 of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions today.
But the other half, known as Whitchurch Village, is in Tier 2 as it is in Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council’s area.
Business owner Rosa Consiglio, who runs Caffe Rosa (pictured), lives on one side of the invisible border and works on the other, after Whitchurch was split across two different levels of coronavirus restrictions
Locals have branded the situation ‘really odd’ as some businesses in Whitchurch will have to remains closed, while others will be able to open up again now the national lockdown has come to an end.
The invisible border has not only created confusion but has presented difficultures for business owners, including one cafe owner who works on one side and lives on the other.
‘I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,’ said Rosa Consiglio, who’s Caffe Rosa businesses on the Gilda Parade, the main run of shops in Whitchurch, falls into the Tier 3 area.
Ms Consiglio and her team will only be able to open the cafe to serve takeaways.
But Ms Consiglio lives in nearby Saltford, over the border in Bath and North East Somerset, so while she might be able to go for an after-work meal at the Maes Knoll, her staff who live in Bristol cannot join her.
Office workers in the cafe’s neighbouring estate agent also face a similar situation as they live in Bristol.
‘I think I might even be allowed to go to the rugby in Bath on Saturday,’ said Ms Consiglio.
‘But I can’t open up my cafe here? I couldn’t come to have a meal here on my day off? It’s just ludicrous.
‘Why haven’t they thought this through at all? How does coronavirus know the difference between that pub over there and this cafe or that pub over here?
‘This is the busiest time of the year for us as well, normally there’s lots of people out and about.
Pubs and restaurants like The Yeomans pub (pictured) face different rules to rival busineses around 750m down the road. The pub will remain closed
The Maes Knoll pub, a popular Toby Carvery on the Bath and North East Somerset side of the border, is on the Tier 2 side so will be able to reopen to serve food and drink to customers
How does government decide what Tiers areas are put into?
Boris Johnson promised to base Tier allocation on ‘common sense’, and the government’s ‘Winter Plan’ set out a series of metrics to be used. They are:
- Case detection rates in all age groups;
- Case detection rates in the over 60s;
- The rate at which cases are rising or falling;
- Positivity rate (the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken); and
- Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.
However, there are no specific numerical trigger points, and the document added that there will be ‘some flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands’.
‘For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients,’ the document said.
‘Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities.’
‘It’s particularly ridiculous because we don’t sell alcohol in the cafe here, so they can’t say anyone is going to get drunk and get too close.
‘This is really badly affecting us, and all small businesses, small cafes and restaurants,’ she added.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are all in the higher Tier 3 band of restrictions.
The Yeomans pub on the Bristol side of the border with Bath and North East Somerset will remain closed.
But 716 metres further south down the A37 is the Maes Knoll pub, a popular Toby Carvery on the Bath and North East Somerset side of the border.
The pub falls into Tier 2 so will be able to reopen to serve food and drink to customers.
Similar scenes have been seen in other areas of the UK, including in the 1,600-populated village of Groombridge, Kent.
The Junction Inn and the Crown Inn are on the border between East Sussex and Kent and fall under different tiers of coronavirus restrictions and face very different futures.
Kent’s Crown Inn will have to remain shut at huge economic cost now the national lockdown is lifted but 430 yards down the road in East Sussex, The Junction Inn will be able to throw open its doors to serve a substantial meal with drinks.
Aside from pubs, the Whitchurch divide will also cause difficulty for neighbours and customers who have to be cautious about crossing the invisible border.
Under the Government’s Tier restrictions, people living in Tier 3 take their tier with them if they were ever to travel outside that area.
So walking over the border to the Maes Knoll doesn’t mean people from Bristol can go there – they would be breaching coronavirus guidelines if they did.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said yesterday: ‘Wherever you move, you take your tier with you.
‘So if you’re tier 3, and you go to a tier 2 [area], you are still required to behave in a tier 3 way.
‘And if you come from tier 2 to tier 3, you clearly behave in tier 3. So you’ve got to move up in the restrictions whichever you go.
‘But people will move. We need to go along with the guidance we’ve been given, which is engaging in Covid-safe behaviours and, obviously we’re working to put Covid-safe environments in place.
‘We hope that by going along with the guidance, we will find that pathway out of that tier 3 so that we can support our businesses again, get life moving, support humans to come into more contact with each other again in a safe way,’ he added.
As the national lockdown was lifted England once again entered a tier system which divided up the country into three different levels of restrictions
Quite how the border is going to be enforced remains to be seen, and has left people in Whitchurch baffled.
‘It creates some really odd situations,’ said Jane, who lives in Keynsham.
‘My daughter lives in Bristol, so can’t come out with us for Sunday lunch on Sunday in Keynsham.
‘But if she worked at the pub, she could serve us – but not join us at the end of her shift.
‘It just feels like it’s getting a bit ridiculous now,’ she added.
The town is at the meeting point for four different statistical areas the Department for Health and Social Care use to measure the number of coronavirus cases.
To the north east is Stockwood where 38 people had contracted coronavirus in the seven days to November 25, giving that part of Bristol a case rate of 264 cases per 100,000.
Similar scenes have been seen in other areas of the UK, including in the 1,600-populated village of Groombridge, Kent. The Crown Inn will have to remain shut due to it being in Tier 3 restrictions
But only a short distance away, but across the border in East Sussex, The Junction Inn will be able to throw open its doors to serve a substantial meal with drinks as it is in Tier 2
To the north was Hengrove, where 44 new cases in seven days gave that suburb one of the highest covid rates in the country, of 486.
To the west is the large estate of Whitchurch Park, which has a case rate of 264, from 18 cases.
But the last bit of Whitchurch that is in North East Somerset is part of an area where cases are very low.
Only four people contracted coronavirus in this corner of Bath and North East Somerset, and the case rate of just 59 is particularly low compared to case numbers in Bristol where 197 new cases have been reporter per 100,000 population in the last 7 days.
The Tier system is due to be reviewed in two weeks.