Swindon’s coronavirus chief says he’s “not planning” to go into Tier 2.

But with case rates rising around the south west, council public health officials across the region are said to be discussing how the area might move up into the medium tier.

Steve Maddern, director of public health for Swindon Borough Council said: “The jury’s out.”

The government introduced the three tier system for England earlier this month, with council areas ranked according to the coronavirus risk.

Swindon is currently in Tier 1, where risk of the transmission of coronavirus is medium. People must abide by the rule of six and the 10pm pub and restaurant curfew.

In Tier 2 areas, which will include Coventry and Slough from Saturday, no households are allowed to mix indoors.

Mr Maddern said Swindon, where the new case rate stands at 68.9 per 100,000 people, was getting “swept up” in the national rise in cases – with the outbreak at Wilkes Academy contributing to the rise. The Swindon rate was still below the south west average of 88.8 new cases per 100,000 and the England average of 177.2 per 100,000.

“There’s a lot of discussion around how we use that and when it would be appropriate to move into the next levels,” he said.

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Steve Maddern 

“It just shows you how dynamic the situation is, given that six weeks ago I was talking about being added to the national watchlist because the case rate was over 20 whereas today the case rate is over 60 and that feels palatably okay. But we can’t afford to rest on this.”

READ MORE: What are the rules of the three-tier system and what areas do they cover?

He said he was “not planning” for Swindon to go into Tier 2.

Asked what it would take for the borough to be pushed into the higher tier, he said the government hadn’t answered the question.

“We moved from the national watchlist process into this new three tiered system,” he said.

“What we had with the original process was very clear escalation and de-escalation triggers, so you knew when my case rate hits this I’m going to move up. The tier system doesn’t do that.”

He said he understood the system took into account case rates, the number of outbreaks and the spread of the virus in the community.

“There’s a lot of discussion around this around how we would do this because if somewhere like Wiltshire decides to go into Tier 2, what does that mean for Swindon if there’s probably a lot of resident cross over from an economy perspective,” he said.

READ MORE: 110 students and staff test positive for covid at Wilkes

“It’s really about working across systems to understand if it’s appropriate and if we decide that the case rates in the south west start to go up and we see these pinch points across the system, whether the south west as a collective might decide we all need to go into Tier 2.

“But at the moment you’ve got that south west and north south west divide because Cornwall has incredibly low case rates at the moment - I think their case rate is around 30 and I don’t think they’d want to be swept up into a second or third tier until they need to be.”

He added: “I think what we knew with the earlier peaks in the summer is when you need to change your level you know it. You feel it. You see your cases changing and you see pinches across the system, you see outbreaks. The XPO outbreak was pivotal in pushing us onto the national watchlist because it changed our case rate.

“I think we’re at the foothills of a very challenging winter and I probably imagine that we’re all going to be swept up into further tiers at some point or another. When that happens is really down to how the government supports local levels to keep their rates low, but also the work local levels do as well.”