A council leader has urged people to “re-double our efforts” with Hertfordshire set to be placed in Tier 2 when lockdown ends.

David Williams, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, hopes a downward trend of cases in the county continues so it moves back to Tier 1 “as soon as possible”.

Before the full lockdown was imposed on November 5, Hertfordshire had been placed in Tier 1 but had been on the verge of moving into Tier 2.

It was expected that Hertfordshire would face stricter restrictions after the second lockdown, with most areas in the county still reporting more than 100 cases per week per 100,000 population.

Case rates have dropped over the last week, but most districts in the county remain higher than what they had been under the tier system in October.

Mr Williams said: “We have been in ongoing dialog with the Government and this decision is based on a series of indicators that reflect the continued prevalence of the virus in the county.

“In recent weeks we have been working closely with the NHS, and Hertfordshire’s District and Borough councils in preparation for the end of the national lockdown. As such, we are well prepared to continue supporting our communities to come through the new level of restrictions.

“We understand that being in Tier 2 will bring concerns for many. These will include the restriction on socialising with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, as well as the economic consequences, especially for our hospitality sector.

“So now it is more important than ever that we re-double our efforts to ensure that the recent downward trend in our infection rates is sustained in order to secure a move to Tier 1 as soon as possible.”

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He added: “I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all Hertfordshire residents who have continued to play their part over the last month by adhering to the national restrictions. However, the virus is still circulating widely in the community, and we must not let our guard down in the run up to the festive period.

“The recent announcement of a vaccine marks a significant step forward in the fight against Covid-19, yet we cannot afford to be complacent. We must all continue to take responsibility to lower the risks in our day-to-day lives by playing our part - keeping up the basics of hand-washing, social distancing and wearing face-masks, getting a test if you develop symptoms and self-isolating when required – and now following the restrictions which apply to Tier 2.”

Watford Mayor Peter Taylor urged people in the borough “to do what we can” to ensure the spread of coronavirus is controlled.

He said: “Despite seeing a plateau in the number of cases locally, the numbers are still higher than where we want them to be.

“But we have been making progress recently in ensuring the case numbers are not rising, so we must continue to do what we can to not go backwards.”

Watford MP Dean Russell said: “As more of us will be heading out to do Christmas shopping and eat in restaurants, it is more important than ever that we wear face coverings when required, regularly wash our hands and maintain social distancing.

“2020 has been a tough year, but the news of a number of potential vaccines gives us reason for cautious hope that there is light at the end of this tunnel, and I would like to thank everybody that has had to make tough sacrifices already this year.”