Senior figures leading Lancashire's response to the coronavirus pandemic have urged the public to continue to use their common sense and look out for each other when legal restrictions lift on July 19.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the Government's plans to lift legal restrictions in England. While legal limits on social contact and wearing masks are expected to be removed, the public is being urged to take personal responsibility and take sensible precautions. This could include, for example, continuing to wear face masks on public transport or in crowded indoor spaces.
The Prime Minister confirmed that a final decision on whether we will move to step four of the Government’s roadmap on 19 July will be made on 12 July following a review of the latest data.
The Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced today that from August 16, all under-18s in England will not be required to isolate if they come into contact with a positive case. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced plans to replace the requirement for entire school bubbles to isolate after a positive coronavirus contact with enhanced testing.
Denise Park, chair of the Lancashire Resilience Forum's Strategic Recovery Coordinating Group and chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "Like everyone else I want to see the end of restrictions and the end of Covid-19.
"Unfortunately, Covid-19 is still with us and does not look to be going away any time soon – indeed our Covid rates remain nearly twice the national average. We do need to learn to live with the virus, but we must use our common sense.
"If the virus is prevalent in your area then we are asking that you take personal responsibility – as you have done throughout the pandemic – to help stop the virus spreading further and help keep Lancashire safe.
"We will continue to provide the information to residents over the coming weeks and beyond 19 July about what is happening in their communities and support people to make the right choices."
Cases of Covid-19 are still increasing across Lancashire, driven by the Delta variant which spreads easier from person to person than previous strains of the virus.
Because of this, everyone in Lancashire is being strongly encouraged to take a PCR test, whether you have symptoms of Covid-19 or not, and then continue to test regularly with your free, rapid tests.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, urged the public to be mindful of the local picture when thinking about precautions.
Dr Sakthi said: "Everyone of us wants to see these restrictions lifted but we must not forget that, here in Lancashire, we have some of the highest rates in the country.
"The vaccine has weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations, but it has not completely broken it. If you haven't got your vaccine yet, please do this as soon as possible and please get that second dose.
"We must also remember that our children are not vaccinated. While the virus has not posed a significant health risk to children, it has had a massive impact on their education. This has been worse for schools in areas of high levels of community transmission.
"It is also important that as long as there are high levels of the virus in our communities, that we continue to use common sense and take extra steps when appropriate. We have got into the habit of taking a face mask wherever we go and let us not drop this habit now. Soon it won't be illegal to forego a mask in enclosed public spaces such as on buses or trains – but that doesn't mean you shouldn't.
"My advice to you is to continue to wear a mask in those circumstances. This is not only important to prevent further transmission of COVID, but also keeping us safe from other winter bugs like the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that we are seeing now."
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