Residents of North Yorkshire must stay at home to drive down the Covid-19 virus, but everyone can do their bit to help others through the national lockdown by looking out for neighbours, friends and family.
The county has seen coronavirus infection rates escalate rapidly in recent weeks and that rise is expected to continue in the short term as the full impact of the easing of restrictions on Christmas Day is felt.
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 for the NHS, even under normal circumstances.
The agencies of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF), which include the county and district councils, the NHS and emergency services, are working with communities to keep people safe and supported during the lockdown.
Richard Flinton, chair of the NYLRF, said: “A national lockdown gives everyone a simple, straightforward message: stay at home.
“There are very few exceptions to that rule, they include if you absolutely need to be at work, to exercise locally, to get essentials or to volunteer. Those are the very basic exceptions to a straightforward instruction.
“The agencies of the LRF understand that people will be anxious, particularly about the new variant of Covid-19, which is much more transmissible than the previous strain of the virus. We will step up our activity to make sure we help the public at this difficult time.
“We also need all our communities to come together. We have strong communities in North Yorkshire. People look out for each other, as we have seen so clearly in recent months. Once again, we ask the public to be alert, to look out for the vulnerable and people who might be struggling.
“We must look out for neighbours, friends or family who may be lonely or isolated. Give them a phone call. It is as simple as that. Keep in touch and that will make a world of difference.”
Since the first lockdown in March last year, the county and district councils have worked with 23 community support organisations across North Yorkshire to coordinate volunteer and community support, ensuring everyone who needs help has someone to call on.
These hubs are a single point of contact within the community, pulling together other organisations to provide a safety net. More than 1,500 volunteers have helped thousands of people each week with shopping, hot meals and prescriptions, as well as checking on people’s health and wellbeing.
“We thank the community support organisations that we are working with,” said Richard. “We have a strong network across the county. If anyone needs support, particularly with shopping, daily living needs, medication or just some personal contact, they should call the county council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. That is the gateway to support.”
Richard Flinton warned that this was likely to be a prolonged lockdown, but everyone needed to follow the rules while keeping an eye on the prize.
“This is a time for us to provide stability while our colleagues in the NHS roll out the vaccine,” he said. “We have that light at the end of the tunnel of the vaccine, so people need to embrace this lockdown, to comply with the rules.
“This would be a terrible time to lose a loved one when the end of this pandemic is in sight. We just need to work together for a little bit longer, follow the rules and stay at home.”
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, said we should assume the new, more transmissible, variant of Covid-19 was in North Yorkshire and behave accordingly.
“We need to remember that coronavirus is spread through contact,” she said. “We are under national restrictions that mean people must stay at home. When we do leave our homes, it must be for a justifiable reason and we must all adhere to strict social distancing and wear our face coverings. My key message is please stay home and stay safe.”
Superintendent Mike Walker, gold lead for North Yorkshire Police’s Covid-19 response, said the police would work tirelessly to keep the people of North Yorkshire safe and would engage, explain and encourage, but would also use enforcement where necessary.
“This is the third lockdown and people should know the rules by now,” he said.
“North Yorkshire Police will be increasing its presence across York and North Yorkshire. The public expects us to police the health protection regulations and we absolutely will do that. None of us wants this lockdown to last any longer than it needs to, but it will only be lifted if the virus reduces, which means it will only be lifted if people stick to the rules.
“My message to everyone is to take a minute to think about the seriousness of the situation. The picture is not good in terms of the virus and the impact on the NHS and on our loved ones and families, so please take a minute to think. If you have one New Year’s resolution, make it to stick to the restrictions of this national lockdown.”
People who need support with shopping, prescriptions, caring for pets and other essentials are encouraged to contact family, friends, neighbours or groups to which they belong. North Yorkshire residents without those networks, or anyone concerned about someone else’s welfare, can contact the county council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week, 8am to 5.30pm.
If you are checking on neighbours or others who might need support during the lockdown, find advice on how to help safely.