FOLLOWING the announcement that both Cheshire West and Cheshire East councils will be placed in Tier 2 at the end of lockdown, it’s natural to assume that that means the county will have a Tier 2 Christmas.

However, the announcement was also accompanied by a promise from health Secretary Matt Hancock that each area’s position will be reviewed in a fortnight, so there is scope for boroughs to move up and down the system.

So, is there a chance Cheshire will be in Tier 1 on December 25?

What does the data say now?

In the seven days up to November 21 — the most recently available date — CEC recorded an infection rate of 165.3 cases per 100,000. The rate was 250.9 ten days earlier.

CWAC also saw its peak on November 11, when rates hit 324.1. Currently, the borough is experiencing a rate of 185.1.

Although the trends in the data are encouraging, it is important to remember just how low they have to be for the government to feel confident enough to place an area in Tier 1.

Cornwall is the only area of the mainland UK to be in Tier 1, and its infection rate on November 21 was 59.1 — roughly half that of CEC and around a third of CWAC’s rate.

It’s also important to note that infection rates are not the only metric officials look at to determine a tiering.

Shortly after Mr Hancock’s announcement, the government published its reasoning behind each area’s placing.

On the Cheshire and Warrington sub-region, which is how the government has defined tier-areas, the statement said: “Case rates are continuing to decline across Warrington and Cheshire, with a 27.4 per cent fall to 209 people per 100,000, in line with Liverpool City Region.

“However, case rates in those over-60 remain high (175/100,000), though falling. Positivity is 8.1 per cent. Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has 150 inpatients with Covid-19.”

Other Cheshire NHS trusts are seeing peaks in the amount of patients in hospitals.

The most recent data suggests East Cheshire Trust has 44 Covid patients, with its peak of 45 coming on November 23. Two of these patients require the use of a mechanical ventilator.

The Countess of Chester Trust is also seeing a high in terms of patient numbers. It cared for 139 patients on November 24, an increase of 21 from the day before.

Mid Cheshire is also in midst of a peak, with 44 in-patients on November 24, with its highest figure of 71 coming on November 22.

What will happen when lockdown is lifted?

Once lockdown does come to an end on December 2, cases are projected to rise again over the next few weeks as residents interact with more people outside of their household or bubble.

The challenge therefore is to avoid what much of the north of England saw in the latter half of the summer — when infection rates started to increase slowly, but rose rapidly in September and October.

CWAC leader Cllr Louise Gittins told residents to ‘not stop now’ in the run up to Christmas with their social distancing efforts.

Similarly, CEC leader Cllr Sam Corcoran urged residents to follow social distancing guidance and encouraged hospitality business owners to ensure they complied with the Covid-safe practices required to re-open.

All of this means, unfortunately, the data suggests Cheshire will be spending Christmas in Tier 2 as the current infection rates have not fallen sufficiently to sustain another increase which the NHS can cope with.

Hospitals are always under pressure during the winter, but with staff hurling themselves into an extra-stressful time after months of relentlessly difficult conditions, it seems as if Tier 1 would be too much of a risk to take.

The advice remains to follow the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance, and to stick to the new Tier 2 restrictions in order to slow the spread of Covid.