Residents urged to follow rules
City leaders in Leeds have urged residents to follow local coronavirus rules to help avoid a national lockdown.
Restrictions imposed on Leeds last week forbid individuals mixing in other people’s homes, while advising against those living apart from socialising outdoors.
This led to anguish over many families’ Christmas plans, as the current restrictions would forbid family and friends mixing in one another’s houses for the festive period.
But, while they were unable to suggest how long the lockdown may last, Leeds health chiefs claimed it was ‘not impossible’ for restrictions to be lifted before the end of the year.
Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of public health, said: “The approach we are part of is that we know it is potentially possible for rates to slow and for rates to potentially plateau if – and it’s a really big if – we get this maximum engagement and people playing their part and doing the right thing, it is possible for that to happen.
“It is a scenario we are all working towards – it is not unachievable, but I guess in reality it’s that ‘if’ around whether we can bring everybody with us, which is why we are going really strongly with the approach we are.
“We don’t have any more certainty around Christmas, because this is all based on whether or not we can achieve it. My sense is there will be a real reluctance to relax rules right over Christmas at a time where you will get a huge amount of movement of people across the country when there isn’t a pandemic.
“Hopefully we can harness people’s energy to achieve this over the next few months.”
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake (Lab) added: “We haven’t got a crystal ball and we don’t know how this is going to move forward, but what we do know is that we have to look at all the measures together – restrictions on their own are not going to solve the problem.
“Every single person needs to do what they can do. The importance of social distancing, wearing appropriate face covering, and if you have a positive test, you must self isolate.
“Government need to work with us to establish an effective and strong test and tracing programme, and we are waiting for them to respond appropriately.”
Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan said: “I think it all comes down to this – if everybody keeps their distance, you’ll keep your freedom and we’ll have a good Christmas.”
Leeds was added to Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford on the list of West Yorkshire local authority areas now under local lockdown measures, with only Wakefield not subject to any.
So does this mean a national lockdown is now inevitable?
Mr Riordan said: “I don’t think (national lockdown) is inevitable – It depends on the response of everybody to the next stage. It is something we really want to avoid for the well-being of everybody.
“We are in the critical period where, if people can keep their distance and can respond, it will add up to make a difference so it can be averted.
“I can honestly say the work that is going on is phenomenal. From the primary schools where children are washing their hands 10 times a day, to wearing facemasks through difficult shifts and helping people live their lives as they would want to.
“We have adapted really well as a city – we can avoid that lockdown, but if we continue on that trajectory we have seen with people mixing, then it is going to happen at some point – but I don’t think it is, by any means inevitable.
Ms Eaton added: “If it’s seen as inevitable, that is when people start to give up, and think there is no point in their behaviour making a difference.
“If you take a collaborative approach and people’s behaviour is to protect themselves and others, it is completely in our gift to make a difference to infection rates.
“This wave is not having the same pattern nationally as the first wave – it is much more specific to local areas.”