Lifting of Covid restrictions given cautious welcome in Northumberland

An end to Covid restrictions has been welcomed as ‘the right thing to do’ by a local business leader.

Thursday, 24th February 2022, 10:00 am

Alnwick Chamber of Trade chairman Lisa Aynsley hopes the move will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy after the difficulties of the last two years.

Against a backdrop of falling infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths, along with the continued success of the vaccination roll-out, she believes Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made the right call in moving on to the next stage of ‘living with Covid’.

"It’s great news on the lifting of restrictions,” she said. “Businesses and business owners have really been through enough.

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Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade.

"Given the statistics and current state of play it’s the right thing to do.

"Obviously Alnwick traders will still be going above and beyond to ensure our customers have a safe experience."

Latest data reveals there were 1,221 positive cases in Northumberland in the week to February 20, although the infection rate of 377.1 per 100,000 population is at its lowest since mid-September.

But with Alnwick ward leading the way in case numbers, Mayor Lynda Wearn offers a more cautious view.

Mayor of Alnwick Lynda Wearn.

"I am sure that there are many people who will welcome the lifting of restrictions and it is good news for businesses,” she said. “Hopefully, their sickness levels will be reduced and people will continue to use local businesses for their needs.

"However, the virus has not gone away and there is still a lot of it about. Alnwick currently has the most cases in the county (41) so I would urge people to continue to take care and be cautious especially when in contact with people who are more likely to be vulnerable."

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan added: “Covid has not gone away, and it is not likely to. The situation we face with Covid now is markedly different to the start of the pandemic, both in the nature of the virus itself, but in our level of antibody protection, largely thanks to the success of the vaccine roll-out.

“Immunity levels are so high, and deaths remain very low, so we are now in a position where we can get on with living alongside Covid as we do with other respiratory illnesses, and protect ourselves and others without losing our liberties.”

From today, people who test positive for coronavirus are now no longer be legally required to isolate, although they will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days.

Changes to statutory sick pay and employment support allowance designed to help people through the coronavirus pandemic will end on March 24.

People aged 75 and over, the immunosuppressed and those living in care homes will be offered another Covid booster vaccine this spring under the plans.

But free universal testing will be massively scaled back from April 1 and will instead be focused on the most vulnerable.

Leaders of the LA7 group which includes Northumberland have urged people to stay vigilant.

In a statement, signed by Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson, they said: “While the law may be changing, the fact that these measures help to reduce infections, prevent illness, and help keep yourself and those around you safe has not changed.

“The lifting of these requirements does not mean the pandemic is over. Covid-19 continues to spread and people of all ages remain susceptible to infection.

“We would continue to ask you to be sensible and cautious in the weeks and months ahead as we all learn to live with Covid.

“While the pandemic has had a significant impact upon us all, please be considerate of those who may be more vulnerable or nervous than you as restrictions and requirements are lifted. For some, this will be a daunting time if they are at greater risk of serious illness. Please, continue to be kind.

“We are in a very different place to where we were when the pandemic began. We have a largely-vaccinated population offering a very good level of community protection, and we of course understand the need for people to get on with their lives and focus on their physical and mental well-being. Living with Covid is new to us all, but communities have stuck together through all we have faced so we are confident you will do the same again.

“Working together as a region has got us this far in challenging and uncertain times, and that is exactly how we will continue through this next stage. We will do all we can to make sure we progress smoothly and protect our most vulnerable residents, limit the pressures on health services, keep children in school, and help our region recover from the effects of the pandemic.”