An MP has said he fears people will “skip over the boundary” from Kent to go to a pub in Bexley when the lockdown ends on Wednesday.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has criticised the decision to place all of Kent in Tier 3, the highest level of restrictions, whilst all 32 boroughs of London have been placed into Tier 2 ahead of the festive period.
The MP has said people will not be happy with the disparity, and will end up crossing the Kent/Bexley border to enjoy a pint or a meal.
The frustration in Kent comes from a large difference in infection rates across the county. Whilst Thanet and Swale have some of the worst Covid-19 rates in the country, other areas such as Ashford have relatively low rates compared to some London boroughs.
Gale and other Kent Tories had favoured a district-by-district approach to enforcing the measures, but the government announced last week that the whole of the county will be in Tier 3.
This means all pubs and restaurants will remain shut. In neighbouring, Bexley, along with the rest of London, restaurants and pubs serving substantial food will be allowed to reopen.
Sir Roger Gale said: “The objective of the exercise has been trying to introduce a scheme that the public will accept.
“We know that it’s high in Thanet, in Ashford it’s nothing like as high (in terms of infection rates).
“Are they going to be happy with that? No they’re not and what will happen of course is people will skip over the boundary, or try and skip over the boundary, to go to a pub or a restaurant that is able to be open if there is one in Tier 2 or in Tier 1 fairly nearby.
“That’s the last thing we want.”
Jo James, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said the news is “disappointing” and added: “How come it all goes out the window because of Christmas?”
Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, tweeted that the Tier 3 restrictions in Kent are “potentially dire for our area”.
Several Kent MPs had written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday last week asking that different areas of the county be placed in different restrictions.
Justifying the decision, the Government said: “Case rates are high and continuing to rise, with large increases in case rates in almost all areas in the last seven days.
“Some of the highest case rates in the country are currently seen in Kent. Rising case rates in people aged over 60 are a particular concern.
“Positivity is also increasing in 10 of the 13 lower-tier local authorities.
“Kent And Medway STP (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership) are reporting hospital admissions are increasing and mutual aid necessary across the county.”
Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce chief Ms James said news that the whole of the county will enter Tier 3 is “disappointing” but not a shock.
She told PA that she has already heard from several businesses.
“I have spoken to a few and they are absolutely devastated by it but on the whole it was expected,” she said.
“I think there is no doubt about it, it’s disappointing that we have been placed in Tier 3.
“I can understand why, because we do have some of the highest levels of infection in some of our districts, but, that said, we do have some of the lowest levels of infection.
“It’s such a shame that somewhere like Kent, that is one of the biggest counties in the country, has to be taken as a whole.”