Northumberland taking 'measured' approach to lockdown easing, leader reassures households

Northumberland County Council is taking a ‘measured’ approach to lockdown easing, while calling for everyone to keep following the coronavirus guidelines.

Sunday, 21st June 2020, 6:00 am
File picture of a rainbow over Dunstanburgh Castle. Photograph by Jane Coltman.

That was the reassurance offered by council leader Peter Jackson during an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week.

It came a week ahead of the Government announcement on Friday June 19 that the UK’s chief medical officers have downgraded the country’s coronavirus alert level from four to three, following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

“The hope is that we’re getting through it, but we have to be vigilant that we don’t get this threatened second wave,” Coun Jackson said. “That’s why it’s important for everyone to keep following the guidelines as much as they possibly can.

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“The good news is the numbers are coming down. We’ve had a few days now with no new cases in Northumberland, so we just have to make sure that continues, but then people need to get back to some version of normality as soon as we can really.”

Earlier this month, Northumberland’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, described the mood as ‘cautiously positive from a Northumberland point of view’.

However, she also emphasised that there are concerns that ‘the lockdown is being eased on multiple fronts in a short space of time’, adding: “There is absolutely no room for complacency.”

The council closed almost all of its facilities as the lockdown began, although it continued to operate key services such as bin collections.

The first public facilities to reopen – with new restrictions in place – were the county’s 12 household waste recovery centres on Monday, May 4.

The authority waited a week-and-a-half after some of the lockdown measures were relaxed before reopening some of its coastal and visitor car parks – on Friday, May 22 – although a number have remained shut.

And for the start of this week, when non-essential shops were allowed to reopen, the council had introduced signage and other measures into the main town centres across the county. Public toilets have now started to reopen as well – with one-in, one-out limits in place.

Coun Jackson said: “Every service that we are looking to reopen, we are doing thorough risk assessments and putting in the best measures that are possible to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We’ve been very measured in all of the services that we’ve opened up so far. I must congratulate the public for being so sensible about the way they’ve used all these facilities.”

As previously reported, the council’s Labour opposition is also backing a cautious approach.

The group’s deputy leader, Coun Scott Dickinson, said: “Whether it’s our town centres, public toilets or other facilities, we must ensure staff are safe. If staff are safe, then the public we serve will be safe.”

Coun Jackson added: “We’re all reliant as residents on everyone keeping to the social-distancing rules if we want to stop this virus coming back. That seems to be the only way to do it.

“It’s up to every resident to be very mindful of sticking to the guidance as closely as ever possible and it’s up to us as a local authority to put in place the basic infrastructure to allow that to happen and that’s what we’re in the process of doing at the moment.”

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