The central government decision follows intensive discussions between central government, local councils, MPs and others in recent days.
West Oxfordshire and the rest of the County will remain in Tier 1 for the time being, although residents are being warned to remain vigilant with cases continuing to rise.
Rates per 100,000 in Oxford rose to 134.5 for the week ending 23 October. For Oxfordshire as a whole, the rate was 117.5 for the same period.
Cases per 100,000 are 151.5 in Cherwell, 92.2 in South Oxfordshire, 91.2 in Vale of White Horse and 109.4 in West Oxfordshire.
Councillor Michele Mead, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Even though we have not moved to tier 2 in West Oxfordshire, there is no room for complacency. We must remain vigilant, act sensibly and abide by the rules. We will get through this with everyone working together.”
Evidence continues to show that, in the past three weeks, the virus has spread to a much wider age range across the county and is no longer confined to younger people in urban areas. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.
Discussions have taken place with central government this week about whether all areas of Oxfordshire should move to the high alert level, given concerns over the spread of the virus to wider and potentially more vulnerable age groups.
However, the decision was made by government to move just Oxford to high alert level at this stage. This was despite requests for the whole of the county to move to tier 2, which had the full backing of the leaders of all six local authorities and the chief executives of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP).
Bruno Holthof, Chief Executive Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have moved from a position of low and stable hospital admission rates over the summer to one in which admission rates are increasing. We know there is a time lag between rising cases and an increase in hospital admissions, and so we expect to see a further increase in hospitalisation rates over the coming weeks.”
Residents are being urged to play their part and stick to the new rules in Oxford to help tackle these recent trends.
What are the features of the high level of COVID alert?
- People must not meet socially with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
- People must not meet in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or other space.
- People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible. If taking public transport, they should plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, added: “We remain seriously concerned about the rise in the number of cases across the county, and not just Oxford. We are deeply disappointed that despite clear evidence showing the virus is now spreading to older and more vulnerable communities across the county, our request that Oxfordshire as a whole should move to tier 2 was not approved.
“My five fellow local authority leaders and I firmly believe this is a necessary step to stem the spread of the virus, protect our communities and the Oxfordshire economy. Our position has the full backing of the chief executives of our NHS partners and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and we will continue to push for a move for the rest of the county to happen as soon as possible based on the epidemiological evidence.”