A significant, focussed and united effort is required by communities across North Yorkshire if parts of the county are to avoid more serious intervention measures being put in place.
As Scarborough and Selby are announced as being on the national covid watch list today, the partnership fighting the impacts of the virus here is warning of the human and economic cost, if the infection rate is not stopped in its tracks.
Responding to the national announcement, North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF) Chair, Richard Flinton, said: “We want people living across North Yorkshire and York to be able to go about their lives but we are asking they do that with a heightened awareness of the risks and while taking on some simple precautionary measures to protect themselves and everyone else. We are doing everything it is possible for us to do to keep the county’s residents, communities and businesses out of more serious lockdown measures and we are asking everyone to help so we can protect our freedoms.
“Despite our efforts we have two areas now designated of concern due to the continued and growing infection rates there. I do not believe for one minute anyone wants the sort of restrictions we are seeing in other areas of the country, but only the personal choices everyone makes, every day, can turn the tide.
“If there is not a mammoth effort by everyone to be extra vigilant and to stick rigidly to the guidance, we have serious concerns that it will cost us all dearly and the way we go about our daily lives will inevitably be impacted further.
“Please help us prevent more deaths, help us keep our schools open for the sake of our children and young people, help us support the economy and keep businesses operating. Do the right thing now and every day and don’t let the sacrifices made by so many of you already, be for nothing.”
Selby District Council chief executive, Janet Waggott, added, "We all need to play our own part to act against this rise in infection rates. Keeping to the new rule of six, maintaining distance from others, wearing a face covering where appropriate, and washing our hands more often for longer - all things we should all be doing, all of the time.
"Councils, the emergency services and health services are working hard together to take a wide range of the actions needed to protect our communities and support our businesses as far as possible. Please help us. We all have a part of play in controlling the virus."
Mike Greene, chief executive, Scarborough Borough Council said:
“Despite the fact our borough is now on the government watch list, Filey, Whitby and Scarborough will remain safe, so long as we all do our bit to minimise the virus spreading.
“Now is the time for everyone to be extra vigilant by taking greater precautions over and above the national guidelines. I urge you to follow the local advice issued by our public health colleagues.
“We worked closely with residents and businesses during lockdown and I am confident we can pull together once more. We have been here before. We can do it again.
“If everyone plays their part, we can avoid a return to the restrictions we experienced earlier in the year.”
An Area of Concern is the first level of intervention in a three-step process. It means that Government agencies are working more closely with NYLRF and local communities to try to prevent, contain and reduce the spread of the virus.
Unlike Areas of Intervention or Areas of Enhanced Support, an Area of Concern does not face additional lockdown requirements at this stage so long as people act to contain and reduce the spread of the virus.
What this means for people living in Scarborough and Selby areas is that people are asked to:
- Exercise extra vigilance in sticking rigorously to hand hygiene and social distancing guidance;
- Use face coverings when leaving home while community infection levels are increasing and avoid crowds;
- Stick to the ‘rule of six’;
- Take extra care when leaving home if you have an underlying health condition or have been advised to shield;
- If you have covid symptoms, you must get a test. Isolate until you get a test and persist in trying to book one if you are experiencing difficulties.
- If you do not have symptoms, do not get a test, unless directed to do so. Priority is being given to those with symptoms.
The Director of Public Health for North Yorkshire says taking additional measures is vital now. Speaking following today’s announcement, Dr Lincoln Sargeant said: “In light of the escalating community infection rates in these areas, and the very real threat to some of our residents who are prone to severe illness if they contract the virus, I am asking everyone to step up their vigilance. 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.
“So please alongside the hands, face, space guidance - wear a face covering outdoors and avoid crowded areas where social distancing is difficult. Please encourage your friends and family to follow suit. We ask you to restrict social contacts outside of household or support bubbles. By doing this now you will help avoid wider measures which could impact on schools, jobs and local businesses.
“To shops, pubs and restaurants I ask you step up 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.”
As large social gatherings and mass events can exacerbate community transmission of Covid-19, event organisers are asked to carry out all necessary risk assessments to ensure a COVID-19 secure environment based on 10 key principles including:
- The appointment of a Covid-19 officer;
- The safe management of queues and robust calculations of visitor numbers;
- Abiding by the government’s new rule of six regulation;
- Organisers are also expected to implement regular processes for updating and communicating their plans and risk assessments, taking current local circumstances into account.
If there is a continuing local escalation in cases, organisers may be asked to cancel, or postpone an event, in the interests of public health. Legal powers would be considered if they were considered necessary.
Members of the public attending events are asked to follow guidelines on using face coverings and hand sanitiser and to keep a 2m distance from people outside their household or social bubble and only attend in a group of up to 6 people.
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 in the Scarborough, Harrogate and Selby areas
- 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.
Richard Flinton continued, “We are being promised additional support from the Government, which we welcome, and we have already made requests for more and quicker testing, as well as other help and funding to support people who are being impacted.
“We remain extremely grateful to the public for their support and compliance at what is, without doubt, a critical moment for our county.”
The watch list advice and support covers the whole of Selby District, including Tadcaster and Sherburn and in Scarborough, the whole borough, which includes Whitby, Filey, and surrounding villages.