THE director of Public Health in Cumbria has responded to concerns about the county being placed into Tier 2 by the Government.

Colin Cox hosted a virtual Q&A session, addressing questions from residents concerned about Cumbria moving into the 'high alert' tier.

Despite Cumbria being placed in Tier 2, Mr Cox said the general picture in the county was 'steady and improving'.

However, he said there were exceptions in Carlisle and South Lakeland after two major school outbreaks.

He said: "The vast majority of extra cases in Carlisle and South Lakeland have been caused by two outbreaks in schools. "In Sedbergh School, there was a very big outbreak with about 150 people affected and that's accounted for a huge amount of cases in South Lakeland over the past week. "And in Carlisle there has been an outbreak associated with Richard Rose Central Academy. This was a big outbreak, with more than a 100 cases there. "I was surprised by how many asymptomatic students at Richard Rose Academy there were. "That peak has lasted a little bit longer and has been drawn out.

"But again over the past few days rates in Carlisle have been falling.

"It's also an encouraging picture in hospitals. The rate of hospital admissions for Covid-19 has slowed down and dropped significantly in the Morecambe Bay area."

Mr Cox addressed several concerns about why local authorities had been merged when deciding on tier levels.

He said: "The Government has made a decision to assess larger areas at the moment.

"Partly for ease - we know if you have lots of places close together with different rules then that's more of a challenge.

"At the moment, I think that the rates are all sufficiently close to being the same that even if we were assessing every district individually, I think that every district would still gone into Tier 2 because of the way the new tiers have been defined.

"What I don't know is if the numbers change and we have the variation like we did earlier on - when Barrow first went into Tier 2, it had a rate almost three times than the national average - we may start to be assessed by district again."

Mr Cox also answered questions surrounding mass vaccination and when that would be rolled out in Cumbria.

He said: "The vaccination programme will be rolled out in many stages and the first bit of it will almost certainly be based predominantly in hospitals.

"The mass vaccination will start to roll out with any luck in the New Year coming into the Spring.

"There's a lot of work going on about how will that function. GP's will be absolutely core to this but also the need to identify sites throughout Cumbria that are accessible to as many people as possible.

"They haven't identified all these sites yet but the people doing it are very well aware of the Cumbria geography and are very keen to make sure these are as accessible as possible.

"We are absolutely looking at setting up a service for lateral flow testing in Cumbria. We're looking at what population groups would benefit from this mass testing - it's not as simple as applying it to the whole population.

"We are looking at doing lateral flow testing but in a much more targeted way."