PEOPLE in Wokingham could be hit with Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions later this month, a public health expert has warned.

Meradin Peachey, director of Public Health Berkshire, said if Wokingham’s seven-day infection rate “continues at the rate of the South East” then it will reach 100 cases per 100,000 people by the end of October.

“That is one of the indicators to move to Tier 2,” she told a Wokingham Borough Council meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

Councillor Andy Croy (Labour) said: “That’s the level at which a local authority would normally be moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2. We’re going to go to Tier 2.”

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Wokingham has recorded 1,080 confirmed cases so far and its seven-day infection rate stands at 74 cases per 100,000. That’s up from 49.7 the previous week.

People in Wokingham are currently subject to medium alert (Tier 1) restrictions, including the rule of six and a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.

But if it moves into the high alert level (Tier 2), people from separate households will be banned from meeting and socialising indoors.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Ms Peachey said she is “hopeful” that Wokingham will not require Tier 3 restrictions.

“Across the board, we are very good at managing outbreaks,” she said.

“But with over 70 per cent of cases at the moment, we don’t know the source. They are not the result of outbreaks.

“It will partly depend on how good we are at getting the informal intelligence about where the sources are.”

Hospital capacity is also taken into account when the government makes a decision on which restrictions should be imposed.

Ms Peachey said most Berkshire hospitals are coping at the moment, as many of the people who have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks are young.

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She added: “We don’t have significant numbers of over 60s (who have Covid-19) and that’s when you start seeing a critical impact on the NHS.

“If you have a lot of cases among over 60s, they are the ones who are more likely to be using healthcare services.

“If we keep going with all the things we are doing, I’m hopeful that we should not reach Tier 3.”

'The only option for us is to change our behaviour'

In areas covered by the very high alert (Tier 3) level, people from separate households cannot mix indoors or outdoors, pubs and bars that don’t serve meals must close and people are advised against travelling in and out of the area.

At Wednesday’s meeting, councillor John Halsall, leader of the council, called on councillors to “mobilise the whole borough to change their behaviour”.

“It’s not certain that we will ever find a vaccine.

“It’s not certain that we will ever come out of the current situation.

“The only option for us is to change our behaviour – the behaviour of 180,000 people.”

He added: “We need to be a beacon of light in a country where everybody is assuming there’s an inevitability about it.

“This is a time when we really have to pull together and change the hearts and minds of the whole borough.

“That’s going to be difficult to do, but if we can do that we can learn to live with the virus.”