THE director of public health has issued a stark warning after new coronavirus restrictions split Sussex in two.

Brighton and Hove’s shops and restaurants narrowly avoided closure just a week before Christmas in Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s afternoon statement.

READ MORE: Parts of South East placed into Tier 4 measures

However, Hastings and Rother, which make up a large part of East Sussex, will be placed under Tier 3 measures from Saturday following a dramatic increase in infection rates.

The Argus:

The decision left worried city leaders warning residents the virus threat is “spreading westward” with health chief Alistair Hill alerting the public that case numbers will rise “significantly” in the coming days.

“We are very concerned that our local case numbers are increasing very rapidly,” said Mr Hill from Brighton and Hove City Council.

“So I am asking everyone to do everything possible to stop Covid-19 spreading further.

“Based on emerging data, we expect numbers will continue to rise significantly in the coming days.

“The increase in cases seen across the South East is affecting NHS services.

“The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the region is at its highest since late April, and is rising rapidly in some areas.”

The Argus: Cases in Brighton and HoveCases in Brighton and Hove

In the seven days up to December 11, there were 283 confirmed new cases in Brighton and Hove – a 61 per cent increase in the rate from the previous week.

“It is almost certain that household mixing over Christmas will lead to greater transmission, more cases and more hospital admissions at what is the busiest time of the year for the NHS,” Mr Hill added.

“It is vital that everyone considers carefully how they can minimise the risk to themselves, their loved ones and their community.

“When making your Christmas plans, please think very carefully about the risks associated with them.

“Please meet as few people as possible, for as short a time as possible, and travel safely.”

Large swathes of southern England will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday due to rising coronavirus levels.

The Argus:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out the findings of the first full review of England’s tier allocations, with very little good news for areas already under tough restrictions.

Instead he was forced to place more areas under the toughest measures, closing pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

The changes mean a total of 38 million people will be living in Tier 3 from Saturday – 68 per cent of the population of England.

The areas being placed into increased restrictions from 00.01am Saturday are:

• Bedfordshire

• Buckinghamshire

• Berkshire

• Peterborough

• The whole of Hertfordshire

• Surrey, except Waverley

• Hastings and Rother

• Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant

In East Sussex, from Normans Bay to the West, Bewl Water in the north and Jurys Gap to the East, residents will no longer be able to enjoy activities those elsewhere in Sussex can.

The move has left Albion fans from Tier 3 areas unable to travel to the club’s upcoming game. Fans from Tier 2 can still go and Albion are now one of only four clubs remaining in the Premier League that can still admit fans.

The Argus:

The changes mean Huw Merriman, MP Bexhill and Battle, is now incapable of visiting his high street 10 minutes away.

The Conservative MP branded it “illogical” and said his constituency “is now split in Tier 2 and Tier 3.”

Meanwhile, MPs in Brighton and Hove are warning city residents to remain vigilant.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “We knew yesterday that Hastings and Rother would most likely enter Tier 3. What we did not know is whether the government would take a 'whole of Sussex' approach, or whether it would just be Hastings and Rother.

“People of Brighton and Hove should be warned. Hastings had the lowest amount of contractions in the country a few weeks ago and this virus is spreading westward.

“It’s coming towards Brighton, Worthing and Peacehaven unless we’re extremely vigilant and consider our day-to-day activities.”

The MP for Hove and Portslade believes remaining at Tier 2 was the right decision.

Peter Kyle said: “We can see the threat Covid continues to pose. It’s creeping across Sussex and even though we’re rightly maintaining our tier status in Brighton and Hove, we must be more vigilant than ever. Let’s keep a lid on this and get to the finish line with our economy as unscathed as possible.”

The little good news came for Bristol and North Somerset, which will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

The Argus:

Herefordshire will go down into Tier 1, although the county’s public health director raised concerns about the relaxation of measures there.

Mr Hancock told the Commons that the UK has “come so far” and “mustn’t blow it now” in taking a cautious approach . The changes come amid mounting concern about the prospect of a surge in cases following the easing of restrictions over the Christmas period.

Justifying the tougher measures, Mr Hancock said case rates in the South East of England are up 46 per cent in the last week while hospital admissions are up by more than a third. In the East of England cases are up two-thirds and hospital admissions up by nearly half in the last week.

The latest Tier 3 areas come after London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex were placed under the top level of restrictions earlier this week.

Mr Hancock said: “I know that Tier 3 measures are tough. But the best way for everyone to get out of them is to pull together, not just to follow the rules but do everything they possibly can to stop the spread of the virus.”

It was “vital that everyone sticks at it and does the right thing, especially over this Christmas period”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters that he was concerned the tier system was “just not strong enough to control the virus”.