Councillor calls for his area of Northumberland to have Covid restrictions lifted

A county councillor has called for his rural Northumberland ward to be removed from the Covid-19 restrictions in place in the North East.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 2nd October 2020, 6:45 pm
Cllr Steven Bridgett, who represents the Rothbury division, wrote to Ms Morgan, saying that ‘it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify these restrictions on such a blanket approach’.
Cllr Steven Bridgett, who represents the Rothbury division, wrote to Ms Morgan, saying that ‘it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify these restrictions on such a blanket approach’.

But the county’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, has said that while the authority ‘understands the difficulties and stresses’, ‘it’s crucial all areas follow the same rules as we look to contain this infection’.

Cllr Steven Bridgett, who represents the Rothbury division, wrote to Ms Morgan, saying that ‘it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify these restrictions on such a blanket approach’.

He claims that the Government’s decisions ‘are causing more damage and eroding public confidence’ and that due to a lack of clarity, he is ‘spending the majority of my days having to deal with queries from residents on how the restrictions apply to their individual circumstances, taking advice from officers and trying to offer them clarity on what is really a very ambiguous set of restrictions’.

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Cllr Bridgett starts his letter, which he says has sparked a huge supportive response from residents, by saying that he ‘fundamentally believes that the best people to help lead us out of this pandemic are the public health and epidemiology experts’ and ‘I will always defer to expert advice from people like yourself’.

However, he concludes: ‘I do not believe the latest restrictions can be justified within my own electoral division and I would be grateful if you could make such representations and request lifting said restrictions to the Government and the various public health officials who are in charge of making such decisions.

‘If such action is not taken to lift this area out of blanket restrictions and with no conclusive support from central government, these new restrictions are effectively the death knell for my local economy, particularly those in the hospitality sector.’

The latest data shows that the Rothbury ward has had no positive cases in the past seven days. The countywide rate is currently 100.2 per 100,000 people, with the highest ward rate – in Bedlington East – being 298.5.

Back at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March, Cllr Bridgett was vocal in raising concerns about visitors ‘flooding’ into Coquetdale and ‘removing one of our few abilities to protect our residents’, namely the space and lack of crowding.

When put to him that a reduction in restrictions in his area may lead to similar issues, he said: “People are travelling here anyway, as there are no restrictions on travel.

“The people who are being penalised are my residents and business owners because of what is happening in more urban areas of the county and the North East with much higher rates of infection.

“Our own director of public health has clearly stated as a result of the data and information that is available to her that there was no evidence to suggest that tourism has played a part in Northumberland’s spike in cases.”

In response to Cllr Bridgett’s letter and request, Ms Morgan said: “We understand the difficulties and stresses the current restrictions are causing to some businesses and residents in our county and we must thank everyone for doing their bit to protect themselves, others and Northumberland.

“Protecting the health and wellbeing of all our communities will always be our top priority and we are also working hard to support businesses through these unprecedented times.

“Unfortunately, infection rates continue to be a real concern, with a number of outbreaks in workplaces and other settings and sustained community transmission. The cases that we know about represent only a fraction of the burden of infection across the county and the region.

“People also travel frequently between different parts of the county for work and leisure, so it’s crucial all areas follow the same rules as we look to contain this infection.

“However we would reassure people that these restrictions are kept under constant review.”

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