As Covid-19 infection rates take another steep hike today in North Yorkshire, the partner agencies supporting communities during the pandemic are asking residents to think twice before they step outside their door ahead of this weekend.
For residents planning to go out to shop for essentials or to take their daily exercise the message from the agencies of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF), is loud and clear: stay as close to home as you can.
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health said: “We are dealing with a highly transmissible variant of the virus and now, more than at any other time during this pandemic, we need to stick to the lockdown rules and stay close to home.
“The roads and streets are clearly busier than during the first lockdown and the dangers are evident as we see the numbers of cases continuing to rise. People can become seriously ill with COVID and some people sadly die, so I urge everyone to play their part in stopping the spread of this virus and stick to the rules.
“This would be a terrible time to lose a loved one when the end of this pandemic is in sight with the vaccine roll-out.
“We just want people to keep safe and keep each other safe when the chances of picking up the virus now are so much greater.
“The North Yorkshire rate today is 444 per 100,000 of the population when at the beginning of this week it was 319 per 100,000 and rates in Richmondshire and Craven have now gone above 500 with rates in Harrogate also climbing rapidly today.
“We must stick to the rules, stay home and protect the NHS which is becoming overwhelmed in the parts of the south and London and increasingly under pressure in parts of North Yorkshire. The rising number of Covid-19 cases is putting hospitals across the region under pressure during what would already be the busiest time of year, even under normal circumstances.
“So if you are thinking of going out and getting fresh air and exercise this weekend, which is important for keeping healthy, think twice before you get in the car and travel miles unnecessarily.
“Use the amenities in your neighbourhood as much as you can. Think local, maintain a social distance, wash hands regularly and use a face covering in shops and and busy outdoor spaces.”
North Yorkshire Superintendent Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police’s lead for their Covid response said:
“The information our Public Health colleagues have shared with us shows exactly why we need to listen to the ‘stay at home’ message, limit our movement and follow the national restrictions.
“In the first national lockdown, when we were told to stay at home, the issue of travel and exercise was much debated. Already within days of the new legislation being passed in parliament, the same questions are being raised again. What does ‘staying local’ mean and how are you enforcing this part of the legislation?
“I understand the public’s need for clarity around this issue. People want certainty about what they can and can’t do. Can I travel across the county to take exercise? Can I drive 20 miles to visit an open space? These are regular questions asked of our officers while on patrol and via our social media channels.
“So I want to be transparent with the public and share the approach our officers will take over this issue, so members of the public can make an informed decision before they make their journey.
“From day one of the pandemic, our officers have followed the 4 e’s approach of engage, explain, encourage, enforce and have applied the legislation fairly and with common sense.
“When engaging with a member of the public, officers will ask the questions we would expect them to ask – why are you traveling? Where are you going? Where have you come from? If the member of the public explains they are taking exercise and live in the local area, this is one of the reasonable excuses for being outside of home and no further action would be taken.
“However, if the officer finds that the individual has travelled multiple miles to exercise and it’s outside of their local area, where there is plenty of provision and open spaces to exercise close to home, the officer has the option to encourage adherence or enforce the regulations dependant on the circumstances”
“It is not reasonable or essential to travel lengthy distances to take daily exercise, when it can be taken from the doorstep. We do not expect people to be travelling multiple miles in a car to take their exercise in North Yorkshire.
“I think we can get sometimes get embroiled in the detail of what we can and can’t do and lose focus on the real reason we are being asked to limit our movement and why the police are enforcing this legislation – to save lives.
“The virus has spread again and our health services are reaching crisis point. If we don’t act now, the consequences are severe for all of us. We all need to stop and consider the implications of our actions and question ourselves before we take a step out of our front doors.
“So before you pick up your car keys, get on your bike, put your trainers or walking boots on, ask yourself - do I need to make that journey? Is there a real need? Is it necessary? Can I change my route or my form of exercise to stay closer to home? Are my actions within the law and also within the spirit of the ‘stay local’ advice? If you can answer those questions honestly and with a clear conscience, then you are acting responsibly.”
If you are checking on neighbours or others who might need support during the lockdown, find advice on how to help safely.