From this week, measures such as the ‘rule of six’ and ‘one metre plus’ have been scrapped, with ministers instead urging the public to take ‘personal responsibility’.
But NHS bosses in Northumberland have confirmed they will be following the example of several national chains, the London Underground and the Tyne and Wear Metro in continuing to recommend ‘Hands, Face, Space’ guidelines are followed.
“Following ‘Freedom Day’, we would really like to try to stay as safe as possible, so we are continuing with wearing our face masks, making sure we’re socially distancing and making sure that we’re washing our hands,” said Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Northumbria Healthcare.
“It will just be business as usual.
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“Patients shouldn’t see any difference from last week, that’s something that we’ve really been striving for over the last 15 months and it’s worked very well.
“If we can make people as safe as possible, that instils confidence in patients to come and use our service, have their operations and protect everybody, protects our nurses and also our community as a whole.
“We’re really trying to not change anything, we’re trying to keep on as was before – it was a recipe that worked.”
A similar approach has been taken at Northumberland County Council, which has appealed for the public to remain ‘sensible and cautious’ and will also ask visitors to its sites to follow ‘Hands, Face, Space’ advice.
Martin Gannon, the leader of Gateshead Council, was blunter, however, urging people to ‘just wear a bloody mask’.
Northumberland continues to have one of the lowest infection rates in the North East, with its seven day average of 675 per 100,000, compared to 855 in Newcastle.
But the last week has also seen cases rise by 40 per cent across the county.
And while the figures have not yet been converted into a significant increase in hospital admissions, Mrs Dickson warned vigilance is still needed.
She added: “For a few weeks we didn’t have any [hospital coronavirus admissions] and obviously it’s much less than it’s been previously. But it’s always a concern.”
Local Democracy Reporting Service