For many weeks, some people – and particularly the broadcast media – have complained that coronavirus rules are confusing, with different areas around the country having a different set of local restrictions.

Hopefully the new three tier system that has come into force this week will help to simplify things, with local areas divided into three categories according to the risk of infection – either medium, high or very high – with each tier having a set of rules and restrictions proportionate to the rate that the virus is spreading.

Here in Dudley we are a medium-risk area – the lowest tier. That means the rules are broadly the same as they have been for the past few weeks.

Schools, shops and businesses can continue to operate as long as they follow relevant “covid secure” protocols, while people are encouraged to work from home if their job can be done effectively away from their normal workplace.

Pubs and restaurants can continue to open, but still have to use table service and close at 10pm, and groups of up to six people can continue to meet up whether indoors or outdoors.

Importantly, relatives can continue to help with childcare – even where they live in areas with tighter restrictions like Sandwell, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Over the past fortnight I have had several meetings and briefings with health ministers and top medical and scientific advisors to examine the developing evidence about the pandemic and how it is spreading, as well as with Dudley Council and Russells Hall Hospital to discuss what is happening locally.

I have spoken in Parliament about the need to be clear about the scientific evidence on which decisions are based, and about the need for further support for people and businesses in the hospitality, events and weddings industries who are currently unable to trade because of legal restrictions, as well as questioning the Health Secretary about covid-testing in Dudley and the Prime Minister about the need to make sure local families can still access the childcare they need – whether from professional childminders or from relatives.

We really do need to do everything we can to avoid Dudley needing to move into a higher tier with stricter rules. Two weeks ago, it looked almost certain that local restrictions would have to be reduced. Fortunately – although the number of positive cases is much higher than it was two months ago – the increase seems to have levelled off, leaving us just under the threshold for stronger action.

A massive thank you to the people in the public health team at Dudley Council who have done an amazing job in helping to keep the rate lower here than other parts of the West Midlands, but an even bigger thank you to the overwhelming majority of people who have been following the rules, respecting social distancing and hygiene advice, to help keep everybody safer. 

If we all continue to play our part, we can minimise the risk of the virus spiralling out of control, and hopefully avoid the need for a local lockdown.