Everyone in North Yorkshire must act now to save lives, protect jobs and the economy and ensure schools can stay open, in the face of rising infection rates of covid-19 in the county.
The stark warning is being issued by North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF), the agencies and partners responsible for leading the fight against the pandemic here. NYLRF includes the emergency services, local authorities and the NHS and is issuing this call as cases have more than quadrupled over the last fortnight.
Today the group is announcing the reinstatement of its full emergency mode. In particular, officials are concerned about:
- The rising number of cases across the county and, in particular, Selby and Harrogate districts as well as parts of Scarborough and Craven;
- Growing evidence of increased community transmission, particularly in the Whitby, Sherburn-in-Elmet and Crosshills/Sutton-in-Craven areas;
- The increases in infections amongst care home staff and residents;
- The national problems with laboratory capacity which mean that fewer Covid-19 tests are available and results are taking longer to process;
In response, partners have already:
- Moved into major incident response mode;
- Directed local testing facilities towards areas of greatest need;
- Stepped up support to care homes and other care services;
- Started to prepare for re-introducing restrictions to visits to care homes in the Scarborough and Selby areas
- Paused the re-opening of social care day services;
- Worked with Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs) to develop guidance to ensure events are Covid-19 compliant and to advise the cancellation of events in areas with high levels of infection to protect lives and livelihoods;
- Worked proactively with workplace and hospitality sectors to promote Covid-19 safety measures;
- Supported schools and businesses with positive cases to manage incidents and prevent or limit the size of outbreaks.
Alongside these actions, North Yorkshire’s Outbreak Management Advisory Board, which provides oversight of the implementation of the Outbreak Management Plan has today considered the escalating situation and agreed the following priorities:
- Prevent, contain and reduce the spread of the virus, wherever and however possible;
- Save lives and prevent long-term illness as a consequence of the virus;
- Keep businesses and schools open;
- Re-inforce personal responsibility: “hands, face, space”; (wash hands, wear a face mask, keep a social distance of at least one metre and preferably two metres apart)
- Protect the NHS;
- Protect care settings and people who are the most frail members of the community;
- Prevent a further, full lockdown if at all possible;
- Take a localised, targeted approach based on risk levels and prevalence of the virus
In addition, in the whole of the Scarborough and Selby districts, people are asked to:
- Exercise extra vigilance in maintaining hand hygiene and social distancing
- Use face coverings when leaving home while circulating infection levels are increasing
- Avoid large groupings of over 30 people
- Events organisers to re-think any indoor or outdoor events that involve more than 30 people;
- Take extra care when leaving home if you have an underlying health condition or have been advised to shield
Richard Flinton, Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council and Chair of NYLRF said: “Together, over the last six months, all of us who live and work in North Yorkshire have made a huge effort to prevent and reduce the spread of Covid-19 locally. We thank everybody again for their many sacrifices. However, as we have seen nationally and around the world, cases are rising again and the threat of the virus is a real and present danger.
“In North Yorkshire we have remained at a high level of alert since lockdown eased and we have monitored and managed outbreaks where they have happened very successfully with Test and Trace. We have secured good access to reliable PPE kit, supported individuals, communities, care services, schools, businesses and the county’s more frail residents.
“However, we are seeing community transmission of the virus now and a worrying rise in cases in a number of areas. We know how quickly infection rates can change and we are calling on the whole county to act now with us in response.
“Please show extra restraint and caution and to take additional actions above and beyond those required nationally to help us try to avoid another lockdown here.”
Superintendent Mike Walker, gold commander for North Yorkshire Police’s response to Covid19, and the chair of the North Yorkshire Strategic Coordination Group, said: “This week we have seen the introduction of the new ‘rule of six’ nationally, in response to the rise in positive cases across England. We have taken a number of measures to reassure the public that we understand how important sticking to the covid rules are to protect our residents, communities and economy.
“This now includes having dedicated patrol cars out and about, crewed by officers who will use the tried and tested ‘four Es’ process where they will engage with groups who are not following the rules, explain what the rules are and encourage them to follow them, only using enforcement as a last resort.
“However we are asking everyone in North Yorkshire to step up their own level of awareness and response to help us fight the virus here too. As a partnership we are strong but we cannot do this alone. So please do the right thing for the county and go the extra mile to keep safe. Do everything you can to limit the chances of inadvertently spreading Coronavirus. Keep your distance, use a face covering and wash your hands regularly. Thank you.”
Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire, has set out specific measures that the public are being asked to follow while rates of infection are increasing:
- Remember the hands, face, space guidance;
- Book a test if you have symptoms and persist if you are experiencing difficulties getting one – isolate while you await the test and results.
- Keep 2 metres apart from people you don’t live with at all times and wear a face covering indoors where this is not possible;
- Please consider wearing a face covering outdoors in crowded areas where social distancing is difficult;
- Restrict social contacts outside of household or support bubbles;
- Shops, pubs and restaurants to step up their Covid security, for example with hand sanitiser provided at entry to, and within, buildings; strict limitations on the numbers of people inside a building at any one time; and one-way systems – where they are not already in place;
- Pubs and restaurants and other venues to collect names and contact details for EVERYONE using their premises, where they are not already doing so;
- Care homes continue to ensure that they limit agency staff usage and/or only use the same agency staff and stop any sharing of staff between care homes.
Commenting on the current problems being faced with the national testing system Dr Sargeant said: “There are significant limitations with laboratory capacity nationally, as demand for tests increases. We know that Government is working to address this situation but, in the meantime, it means that fewer test appointments are available and test results are taking longer to be processed.
“This issue is a national one and outside of our control. We have escalated our concerns nationally and we are targeting our local testing facilities towards the communities and people in greatest need”.