TOUGHER coronavirus restrictions could be introduced in Worcester because of the high rate of infections in Bromsgrove and the Wyre Forest.

Worcestershire health bosses have been summoned by the government to discuss moving the county into the second tier of restrictions. This would mean bans on visiting other people’s homes and tighter restrictions for pubs and restaurants.

The locations with the highest rates of infection are Wyre Forest and Bromsgrove, and these areas could cause all of Worcestershire to be put in the ‘high’ category – the middle of the three tier system – from next week.

Worcestershire’s director of public health, Dr Kathryn Cobain, is understood to be saying to the government that just Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest should have the higher restrictions, not the whole county.

Despite lower infection rates, Worcester and Malvern Hills would be included in the ‘high category, as would Wychavon even though the number of cases is actually falling there.

A message sent out to councillors in Malvern confirms Dr Cobain is “arguing strongly” that Worcestershire should be given the right breathing room to reduce its infection rates, rather than have a county-wide set of restrictions.

Currently, Wychavon and Malvern Hills case numbers are low in relation to the rest of the county and other areas already in tier two such as Birmingham and Manchester.

In Wychavon it is 47 cases per 100,000 people and for Malvern Hills 70 per 100,000 in the last 7 days.

The main difference between tier one (medium) and tier two (high) is that households are banned from mixing indoors.

This will also impact the hospitality industry, with businesses ineligible for additional financial support in tier two.

Worcester MP Robin Walker said the best way for residents to avoid being placed in a higher tier is to continue observing the rule of six and social distancing.

He said: “Just because we are currently in the lowest tier, that does not mean there is no risk. We need to make sure whatever happens we continue following the rules, as that is the best way to avoid a higher level of restrictions.”

West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin confirmed she had been in discussions with the county and district councils this week about the likelihood of the county moving up a tier.

She said she would “strongly resist” a full-county change, adding: “I have had briefings from the local councils regarding proposals to change our local Covid regulations owing to a serious rise in cases in the north of the county.

“I would strongly resist this change as the incidence of cases in my constituency remains comparatively low and I have passed on the message to the county council that I will happily make that case to the minister if I am asked.

“Worcestershire people have taken extraordinary steps over recent months to help slow the spread of the virus and help to take the pressure off the NHS.

“With winter drawing in, there are clearly heightened risks but I am confident that with a strong local resilience plan already in place we can manage any hike in positive cases while protecting the NHS, the economy and people’s livelihoods.”

According to Worcestershire County Council, Bromsgrove has an infection rate of 121 per 100,000 people and Wyre Forest has a rate of 94 per 100,000 in the last 7 days.

The county’s rate overall continues to rise and, for the past seven days, stands at 74 per 100,000.

Malvern Hills district councillor Paul Bennett said: “Malvern Hills is potentially being dragged into a higher tier of Covid restrictions because of being linked with Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest just because of the county boundary. How can that be right? We have separate figures for each district council and yet after seven months, the system set up for restrictions ignores the facts and is not fit for purpose.

“There is no way businesses in Malvern, Upton or Tenbury should shut because of this.

“I fully support any carefully planned and necessary closures but not because of the figures being higher in Bromsgrove. That does not make any sense at all here.”

Under the new tier system, most local authorities will go into the ‘medium’ tier, which will consist of the current lockdown measures including the rule of six and 10pm closing times for pubs and restaurants.

The next level up, ‘high’, includes most areas which are currently subject to local lockdown restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said areas where the number of cases rises the most rapidly will be put into the ‘very high’ top tier.

In this tier, restrictions on social mixing will be imposed, as well as closing pubs and restaurants. Schools, workplaces and shops will remain open in this case, according to Mr Johnson.