As covid infection rates continue to rise across North Yorkshire, first responder agencies are making the strongest appeal to the county’s communities to try and prevent more severe intervention measures.
Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience forum, which includes the emergency services, councils and health, said the county was at a tipping point and it was the responsibility of each and every one of us to play our part and follow distancing guidelines so we can continue going about our lives and supporting the local economy.
The appeal comes on the back of surging infection rates in Craven, particularly South Craven and the Skipton area and also a rise in Richmondshire, where there has been an increase in positive tests linked to the Catterick area. Scarborough and Selby remain on the Government watchlist as areas of concern.
NYLRF includes the emergency services, local authorities and the NHS and is responsible for leading the fight against the pandemic here to protect lives and the NHS, support the economy and keep schools and businesses open. It is issuing this call as part of its strategy to act early to get on top of infection rates here to avoid the enforced interventions being seen in many other northern areas.
As most infection can be linked to household and social contact Richard Flinton called on residents across the age range to pull together. He said: “Rather than wait for Government intervention and the imposition of more serious lockdown measures being faced by people in many parts of the north of England, we are appealing to people to take the necessary precautions now.
“We must not risk everything we have achieved in North Yorkshire by letting our guard down. Social distancing and hand washing remain the best defences against Covid – with face coverings where required. We also urge everybody to keep to the rule of six, inside as well as out.
“We would also like to go a little further than that to protect our schools, businesses and freedoms here – we are not waiting for more areas to go onto a watch list to step up our response. We would ask that you wear a facemask or covering in any areas where social distancing is difficult – even when outside.
“So, if you are in a narrow street or other busy area please cover your face – be part of Team North Yorkshire and help keep our county open. Protect your friends and family and keep our High Streets and hospitality sector safe and open.
“We will all need to work hard together if we are to avoid enforced national interventions, which may prevent us from being with our friends and family.
“It can be done. Rates have come down in Selby and Scarborough which are on the watchlist as areas of concern. That is a great achievement by communities in those districts. Thank you for all your efforts and sacrifice. We have shown we can pull together to beat Covid.”
Paul Shevlin, Chief Executive of Craven District Council, said: “These figures are concerning and I would urge all residents and businesses to do their bit to slow the spread of the virus in the district.
“There are a number of new national measures which have been announced recently – the ‘rule of six’, earlier closing for pubs and restaurants, increased use of face coverings, and the NHS Covid-19 app.
“Fines and enforcement are also increasing so please do take notice of all these regulations. We also need to stick to the simple, straightforward measures of social distancing and good hand hygiene.
“The figures in Craven show there have been 95 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. It is important to note that our population is small, and so any increase in cases may appear to be startling, and the percentage increase/decrease may be large from week to week.
“However, we have seen in other areas of North Yorkshire that they have been able to reduce the number of new cases quickly. If we all work together in Craven we can stop the spread. None of us wants to see a full lockdown again – we all want to see schools and businesses stay open if at all possible.”
Tony Clark, Chief Executive of Richmondshire District Council, said: “Richmondshire District Council has been alerted to the rising cases in Catterick Garrison and Colburn so it is vital that we all do as much as we can to make sure the district remains safe.
“We must all take measures to minimise the spread of the virus – and we urge everyone to follow the national guidelines issued by public health. The District Council’s Environmental Health and Licensing Team is working closely with local businesses and we are asking everyone to work together as we try to avoid returning to the lockdown restrictions we lived through earlier this year.”
The Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire Dr Lincoln Sargeant says vigilance around social distancing, the wearing of masks and hand hygiene could not be more critical.
He stated: “In light of the escalating community infection rates in these areas, and across the region and UK, and the very real threat to some of our residents who are prone to the most severe symptoms if they contract the virus, I am asking everyone to take responsibility. We are seeing infections rise in our care settings and we must all protect those most at risk from the more severe medical impacts of Covid-19.
“We have already suspended care home visiting, which is incredibly hard to bear for care home residents and their families who have only just started to enjoy the freedom of being able to see each other again. We would like to find ways of restoring visits in a Covid-safe way this month and we can all play a part in helping that to happen by getting the infection rate down again.
“So please, alongside the hands, face, space guidance - wear a face covering in crowded places outdoors and avoid crowded areas where social distancing is difficult. Please encourage your friends and family to follow suit. As the virus is transmitting from person to person the fewer social contacts people have the better. By doing this we will help to restrict the progression of Covid and help avoid wider measures which could impact on schools, jobs and local businesses.
“If you have Covid symptoms you must isolate until you can take a test.
“To shops, pubs and restaurants I ask you to keep on top of your Covid-19 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. Ensure you are rigorous in collecting contacts from customers.
“Event organisers please re-think any indoor or outdoor events that involve more than 30 people; to care settings please continue to ensure that you limit agency staff usage and/or only use the same agency staff and stop any sharing of staff between care homes. We must all play our part now.”
Steps are already in place to:
- Direct local testing facilities towards areas of greatest need;
- Step up support to care homes and other care services;
- Re-introduce restrictions to visits to care homes
- Pause the re-opening of social care day services;
- Work with Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs) to develop guidance to ensure events are Covid-19 compliant and to advise on the cancellation of events in areas with high levels of infection to protect lives and livelihoods;
- Work proactively with workplace and hospitality sectors to promote Covid-19 safety measures;
- Support schools and businesses with positive cases to manage incidents and prevent or limit the size of outbreaks.
Many of these measures are being implemented countywide, with some being targeted to those areas that have the highest infection levels.