North Yorkshire leaders welcome Covid roadmap as balance between 'caution and positive action'
Leaders in North Yorkshire have welcomed the government's roadmap to restart most of society and the economy by May as a move which strikes a balance between "caution and positive action".
Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, praised the four-step strategy that could see all restrictions lifted by 21 June as a "very good" route out of the pandemic but also urged residents to vigilantly stick to the rules over the weeks to come to ensure that they can be lifted on schedule.
"We welcome the roadmap that the Prime Minister has announced," he told a briefing today. "It does strike a very good balance between positive action to unlock restrictions and providing more freedoms for people, but with that strong note of caution.
"We still have high rates across North Yorkshire and I think it is quite solitary to realise that today there will be over 70 people that will become infected for the first time with this disease.
"A number of those individuals will go on to see it become a serious and potentially life-threatening condition."
Boris Johnson declared the nation was on a “one-way road to freedom” last night as revealed the roadmap for returning life to normal which will start with all school children returning to classes from 8 March.
Sectors of the economy will then restart “cautiously and irreversibly” in four stages between early next month and mid-June, after some limits on social contact are lifted from 29 March when outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed.
Dr Victoria Turner, public health consultant at North Yorkshire County Council, told today's briefing that while infection rates have improved during lockdown, they are still "much higher" than before the second wave first struck in September.
She said: "The lifting of restrictions at each stage can only be put in place if case levels are stable enough to do so in line with the Prime Minister's four tests.
"It is crucial therefore that we are not getting too complacent with how far we have come already. We do not want to risk setting ourselves back when the way ahead has now become much clearer."
The seven-day infection rate in North Yorkshire currently stands at 84 cases per 100,000 people. This is below the England average of 119.
Today's briefing of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, which is made up of councils, emergency services and health officials, also heard that the number of coronavirus patients in the county's hospitals is continuing to fall. There are currently 245 patients in beds after a reduction of 32 from last week.
Harrogate hospital has seen the largest decrease with 19 less patients, although the number of patients needing treatment (48) is still higher than the first peak.
Mr Flinton added: "There is still an instruction to stay at home in place until 29 March - that is a good number of weeks away and clearly there is a risk of picking up the general note of unlocking in yesterday's speech that the public believe there is greater freedom immediately.
"We need to make sure that we stick through these next few weeks and months.
"Every washed hand, every day at home, every covered face, every video call that people make and every avoided contact all makes a difference."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter