Council health chief calls for return of masks and social distancing

East Riding of Yorkshire Council's health director Andy Kingdom.East Riding of Yorkshire Council's health director Andy Kingdom.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council's health director Andy Kingdom.
East Riding Council’s public health lead has called for renewed mask wearing and social distancing now to avoid much stricter measures as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Public Health Director Andy Kingdom said there was only about a week or so to do so to keep a lid on infection rate increases.

He said people wearing masks in public and reducing their social contacts would ease pressures but warned more severe measures in the government’s ‘Plan B’ could be needed if not.

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It comes as 1,592 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the East Riding between Tuesday, October 12 and Monday, October 18 – up from 1,581 the previous week.

The rolling infection rate rose from 461 to 464 cases per 100,000 people during the same period.

Mr Kingdom said overall rates masked differences of up to five times the average among 11 to 16 year olds, with their rate at 2,400.

The rolling rate for five to 10 year olds was almost double at 850, while for those aged 80 and over it was 100 per 100,000.

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Mr Kingdom said: “We’re back to the stage where it’s really tight in the East Riding at the moment, case numbers particularly among children are high.

“We knew this was coming when we opened up schools and took measures in them away. The question now is can we buy ourselves enough time and is the wall of protection around the most vulnerable big enough?

“And there’s a question of whether half term will sufficiently reduce social contacts among pupils so coronavirus doesn’t carry on spreading like this when they go back to school.

“I’ve had parents contact me who are worried about their children who are in school and haven’t been vaccinated yet.

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“I was unhappy with the speed of the 12 to 15 rollout at first, but the Government and NHS appear to have stepped things up now.

“The decision to vaccinate 12 to 15s was less about protecting them because the clinical risk of coronavirus to children is low, it’s more about controlling transmission in the wider community.

“But for me the booster rollout is probably the key one because those who had their jabs first, the most elderly and vulnerable, will have a waning immunity now.

“People will be invited for their booster jabs but if you’re over 50, worried and your last jab was six months ago or more, you will soon be able to book appointments.”

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The director said small behavioural changes now could buy time to get through the 12 to 15 and booster vaccine rollouts before already busy hospitals are overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.

He added people should return to a sense of collective responsibility and those who refused to wear masks on individual freedom grounds were only making life more difficult for others.

Mr Kingdom said: “A&E is under massive pressure, hospitals are seeing people who are seriously ill, it’s not just people with scratches coming in, they’re not far off being overwhelmed.

“Small changes in case numbers can have a big impact in hospitals, but small changes to our behaviour will also have a big knock on effect.

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“People’s behaviour here has been and still is generally good, but mask wearing has slipped and is probably not being done as much as it needs to be.

“Those I worry about are the ones who are going around without having been vaccinated, or are not wearing masks or socially distancing anymore, they’re wandering around and potentially infecting other people.

“They’re putting other people at risk by doing that, someone might feel wearing a mask is an individual choice but if they’re on a bus say and they’re sitting next to someone coming back from chemotherapy treatment if they catch coronavirus it’ll be a big problem for them.

“It’s a choice for you to wear one, but the person you might infect doesn’t have a choice in that, so please consider other people.

“If we can start wearing masks and distancing more again for a couple of months then hopefully we can loosen things in time for Christmas.”