'Let's be responsible living with covid' - North East health leaders' message as region eyes 'Freedom Day'
‘Let’s be responsible living with covid’ – that’s the message from North East health leaders after the Government announced plans to lift most of the remaining covid restrictions on July 19.
Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that face masks will no longer be legally required and social-distancing rules will be scrapped at the final stage of England's Covid lockdown roadmap, scheduled for July 19.
The rule-of-six inside private homes will end, work-from-home guidance dropped, and remaining businesses such as nightclubs will be allowed to reopen. The Prime Minister is due to confirm the move on July 12.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid also confirmed today fully vaccinated people in England won't have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive for covid from August 16, and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced school ‘bubbles' would end.
In response, public health directors from the LA7 group of North East councils, comprised of Sunderland, South Tyneside, Northumberland, County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle and North Tyneside, called for people in the region to be responsible when freedoms return.
In a statement, they said: “The changes to Covid-19 restrictions announced on Monday mean we will all have to learn to live with the virus, but we still have a duty to do so responsibly.
“If restrictions ease as planned on July 19, we can expect infection rates to increase as we have seen at previous steps of the roadmap out of lockdown.
“Currently, our region has some of the highest rates of infections in England. That puts an even greater responsibility on us all to play our part in protecting our loved ones, our neighbours, and our colleagues.”
The health leaders said measures such as wearing a face covering and keeping a safe distance from others have become ‘second nature’ , but soon we will have a personal choice to make as to whether we continue them or not.
"These will be our own choices to make and only you can decide which steps you should take to keep yourself safe and be considerate of those around you, including those who may be vulnerable or anxious,” they said.
“We know that these measures are effective at helping to reduce transmission and we would ask you to continue to exercise these and all other precautions where appropriate, such as in shops and on public transport.
"These measures not only help to protect you, they reduce the risks for others around you as well.”
The leaders said while cases have been rising, the North East had been ‘reaping the early benefits’ of the ‘remarkable vaccination rollout’, and encouraged people to book in for their jabs if they had not already.
They said: “Already we are seeing the signs that vaccines are breaking the link between transmission and serious illness in many instances. But for vaccines to be as effective as they can be, and to fend off the genuine threat of new and more dangerous variants, we need everybody to come forward for both doses.
“Everyone over the age of 18 is now eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. If you haven’t done so already, we would urge you to book appointments through the national booking system at www.nhs.uk or attend a local drop-in centre. The more people who come forward for both jabs, the greater the level of protection we all have.”
Testing will continue to be important with looser restrictions in place, and people with even mild symptoms must still self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test from www.gov.uk to prevent spreading the disease to those more susceptible to serious illness.
The LA7 statement said: “Using Lateral Flow Device tests twice a week will also help to identify if you could be among the one in three people who has the virus without displaying any symptoms, allowing you to self-isolate and stop the virus spreading further.
“If you are required to self-isolate, please remember that your local authority will continue to provide welfare and wellbeing support going forwards."