Coronavirus warning as Harrogate district leaders call for 'small sacrifices' to avoid potential new lockdowns
Fears of a second wave of Covid-19 have prompted senior figures in North Yorkshire to warn the public that a local lockdown on our own doorstep was not out of the question if people failed to do the right thing.
In a week which has seen the announcement that Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust was to receive a half-million pound boost - in part to cope with peak pressure in the winter months - local leaders are calling on everyone to make “small sacrifices” to make sure the worst does not happen here.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said the idea of tighter restrictions being re-imposed locally was something everyone had a part to play in avoiding.
Mr Jones said: “In Scotland we have seen restrictions re-imposed on sport and in Preston people are unable to meet in each other’s houses again.
“Further restrictions have also been imposed in West Yorkshire.
“We aren’t looking at that yet in our area but unless we are sensible and follow the rules about distancing and facemasks then we could reach a situation where those freedoms we won by staying at home, not seeing our families and through not being with our friends, start to be rolled back.
“This is the last thing I want so I urge people to respect distances, to wear masks when they can’t and to wash their hands.”
The extra £527,000 announced by the Government means the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust will be able to increase its A&E capacity, put enhanced infection prevention and control measures in place and make improvements to emergency care and urgent treatment services.
Planning for the worst case scenario of flu and Covid outbreaks is part of an unfolding national strategy which has also seen local authorities given more powers to bring in new partial lockdowns.
Last month North Yorkshire County Council was given new powers to close shops, cancel events and shut outdoor public spaces to manage local outbreaks of coronavirus as part of a shift in policy described by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as essential to enabling a speedy response to local spikes in Covid-19 figures.
Concern has grown that the county may even follow the examples of areas such as Greater Manchester, Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford which have been the recent subject of local lockdowns.
North Yorkshire County Council chief executive, Richard Flinton said, though the rate of coronavirus infections in the county remained low, it was still essential that the public did not to let their guard down against the virus.
Mr Flinton said: “Sadly, a number of our neighbours in the north of England are back in harsher degrees of lockdown and I am aware that this has resulted in some concern here in North Yorkshire.
“We must not forget our future is in our own hands, literally. I would urge people to wash their hands regularly, carry hand sanitiser and stay at least two metres from people not in their household.”
Across England, the Government is providing £300 million to A&E departments, with work to be completed by the start of next year so hospitals can benefit from the upgrades during winter when pressure may potentially be greatest from the twin possibilities of the flu and Covid-19.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones added it was “right that we plan for the worst” this winter.
Mr Jones said: “Winter may seem a long way off but planning ahead is essential if we want our NHS to cope with the additional pressures that cold weather brings.
“We can also expect the Covid-19 pandemic to still be with us although, hopefully, in a much reduced and more contained way.
“While we hope for the best this winter, its right that we plan for the worst.”
Despite the notes of caution being sounded, the aim is not to offer a crystal ball to an alarming future of more restrictions, it is to ensure where we live is in the best possible position for the challenges that winter may bring.
The county council’s chief executive, Richard Flinton said its Test and Trace team were proving “very effective” in managing and closing down the small number of outbreaks it was seeing.
But Mr Flinton said: “We must exercise maximum caution because we can see that the virus continues to wreak havoc on communities where it is able to take hold again.”
Harrogate’s MP said it was all about people continuing to do the right small things.
Mr Jones said: “Surely the small sacrifices we are being asked to make as individuals right now are worth the inconvenience they cause us if they enable the speedier return to a more normal life and prevent the loss of more lives?”