Face masks: What political leaders in Harrogate say about Boris Johnson's response to Omicron threat
The Harrogate district may be starting to unlock a treasure trove of festive events and markets from this weekend but local political leaders are encouraging members of the public to follow the new Government guidance issued in the last week to wear face masks - including any crowded outdoors settings.
Organisers, including Harrogate Borough Council, are intent on keeping up everyone’s festive spirits despite the changing picture on Covid created by the new Omicron strain.
But Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, warned: “We are keen to thank our partners who are helping ensure we deliver a safe, vibrant and exciting festive experience across the Harrogate district this Christmas.”
“But Covid-19 infection rates remain high across the country, so to ensure residents, traders and visitors can enjoy the festivities, we will be asking visitors to abide by the government regulations.
“Harrogate Christmas Fayre is running over ten days and people are asked to wear face masks and use their common sense where there are crowds, wash or sanitise their hands regularly and maintain social distancing where possible.”
Despite there only being a small number cases of the new variant which have come to light in the UK so far, the Government has also now launched a new vaccination campaign to offer all adults in England a vaccination booster jab by January 31.
Boris Johnson also announced that the booster jab will be offered to all over-18s and the gap between the second dose was to be halved from six months to three to help speed up the programme to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
Although there are questions over the pace of the current jab campaign for over 50s and 12 to 15-year-olds, Harrogate MP Andrew Jones is among those hopeful that the new drive to increase the numbers of booster doses will negate the need for any further tightening of Covid rules.
Mr Jones said: “It’s too early to tell what sort of impact the new variant will have but we are all hoping, with the expansion of the existing successful vaccination programme and the new measures in place, we will not have to change our plans for Christmas.
But the Harrogate and Knaresborough MP is also stressing that we all need to be sensible now in our behaviour to ensure no stricter Covid restrictions are necessary before Christmas.
Andrew Jones said: “In the face of the threat from a new variant we should take a precautionary approach to protect all the progress we have made.
“We need to view our individual efforts in the context of our community.
“We should get our jabs, wear our masks, check our distances and ventilate our rooms not just for ourselves but to protect family, friends and colleagues.”
Although the precise danger of Omicron was, as yet, unclear, the new strain of the virus made getting the jab even more important, said Mr Jones.
“We need to get our booster jabs or, for those that haven’t been vaccinated at all yet, start the process.
“But we also need to wash our hands regularly, check our distances and wear a mask in crowded places. I know for some this is an inconvenience or something they even object to strongly but it is important.”