The leader of South Hams District Council, Judy Pearce, has said the placing of the region in the tough ‘high alert’ measures will cause irrevocable harm to local businesses.

The councillors have said that the news will be ‘desperately disappointing’ and for many people in the drinks-only hospitality industry, they must be feeling near desperation at the prospect of what looks like a further lockdown for them.

And they have slammed the historic under-funding and reduction in hospital capacity that is one of the reasons why Devon has been placed in tier 2, despite some of its districts having the lowest rates of anywhere in England.

Explaining why Devon has been placed in tier 2, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that the case rates are 121/100,000 overall, although there are higher rates in Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter. He added that the case rate in the over 60s is 85/100,000, though significantly higher in Exeter at 155.9/100,000), and there is pressure at the RD&E Hospital.

The tier 2 measures mean you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place. You can socialise though in a pub beer garden, but pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants and hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.”

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council said: "I am really disappointed that South Hams will placed under Tier 2 restrictions on 2 December.  In spite of low and decreasing infection numbers locally, pressure on local hospital facilities has been quoted as a reason.

“Local authorities from the South West have been lobbying to increase hospital capacity for years, but governments of all hues have never listened to us. There will be irrevocable harm to local businesses in the run up to Christmas as a result of our District being placed under tier 2 restrictions and this concerns me greatly.”

Teignbridge Council Leader, Cllr Alan Connett said: “I’m hugely disappointed for Teignbridge, and even more saddened for the businesses that will be adversely affected by this decision. Whilst this news brings some hope for many of our businesses that they can open up again, our drinks-only hospitality industry must be feeling near desperation at the prospect of what looks like a further lockdown for them.

“We want to help these businesses as much as possible to diversify their offer, to enable them to work within the rules and reopen wherever possible, and also through our businesses grants and other support, so I’d encourage them to get in touch. We want to help and will where we can.

“We’re very unlucky that we’ve been placed in a higher tier than many expected, and it does feel like a slap in the face for everyone who has worked so hard to keep our infection rates low, keep our high streets and businesses Covid safe and stick to the rules.

“But what we need to focus on now is keeping our rates down, helping get our NHS through this critical period, and supporting our local communities to recover.

“It’s not going to be easy – we’re already seeing big increases in claims for universal credit, council tax relief and hardship funds, and our economy is being hit hard.

“By continuing to work together, we may be able to get into Tier 1, and we can support our businesses and traders by shopping locally wherever possible. Let’s keep Devon safe and strong.”