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Residents urged to help stop the spread as Luton enters High Alert tier

30 Oct 2020

Residents across Bedfordshire are being urged to play their part in helping stop the spread of coronavirus after Luton was moved into the government’s ‘High Alert’ level.

The new measures in the town, which come into effect at 12.01am tomorrow (Saturday), restrict people from mixing indoors with anyone they don’t live with – unless they form part of a support bubble or are essential carers. The rule of six still applies to all outdoor spaces.

In addition, people are being urged to limit the number of journeys they make away from home and plan ahead to avoid using public transport at busy times, and try to walk or cycle where possible.

The new measures are being put in after infections continued to rise across the town, including a concerning increase in positive tests for over 60s – who are much more vulnerable to the virus.

Admissions to Luton & Dunstable Hospital are also rising, and there have been confirmed Covid-19 related deaths. While other parts of Bedfordshire remain on ‘Medium Alert’, everywhere is seeing an increase in infection rates.

Today, partner agencies called for people to help fight the virus, by adhering to social distancing and minimising contact with others.

Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway said: “Since I represent all of policing on behalf of the PCCs of England and Wales in all the main strategic Government meetings each week, I could not be more aware of how vital it is that we all observe the new restrictions if we do not want to go back into total lockdown and, more importantly, avoid a catastrophe in which tens of thousands more people could die.

“The main change for most of us is that, in tier two, people cannot mix indoors with other households unless they form a bubble with a single person living alone. This then is a massive responsibility for the hospitality industry as well as families and friends; it means two people who don’t live together can’t eat inside a restaurant on a date, for example, and that two sets of families or friends cannot meet inside in cafes, restaurants and pubs. This is very tough to observe and even tougher to oversee which is why it comes down to every one of us and our personal responsibility.

“This is not just an older person’s problem; death rates among our NHS workers and diverse communities prove that. This is an emergency affecting every single one of us where it’s impossible to predict who’ll become seriously ill, whatever their age, and, whatever any of us think of the Government, this is not a matter of politics but of every single person needing to take responsibility for their own health and that of others, to protect themselves and those they love most."

Leader of Luton Council Hazel Simmons said: "We do not want to report week on week more deaths in the community before we take action and one of our conditions to the government is that we want regular reviews which will enable us to come out of high-alert if we bring our infections down.

"We are confident our communities will pull together like they always do and give us a great chance of moving back to medium-alert so we don’t get stuck with these restrictions which will impact on our businesses and communities.

"We can only do this with the continued support of our communities – and now more than ever we are asking for your help to act together and follow the guidelines."

Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Joint Medical Director Paul Tisi said: “On the back of the increasing community infection rates, we are seeing increased numbers of patients coming into our hospitals – both the Luton & Dunstable and Bedford – who have tested positive Covid. This is obviously concerning.

“We now know much more about the disease, which helps us in treating patients. But, inevitably, if these rates keep going up, we will see more patients in our hospitals, and sadly, more people in our community will die.

“Please comply with the guidance and the rules. Reducing the amount of contacts you have with other people makes a massive impact on the transmission, and ultimately, it will save lives.

“We’d like to reassure the community that we, and the rest of the NHS, are open and doing everything we can to keep all our patients safe. We are here if you need us. If you have health concerns – please come forward.

“In the meanwhile, remember: Hands. Face. Space.”

Increased testing for the town is being brought in to help identify outbreaks, and Bedfordshire Police and Luton Council are teaming up to carry out enforcement patrols to check businesses and venues are Covid-compliant, and that the public is aware of, and following, the new rules. These will also be carried out across Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire over the coming days.

Chief Superintendent John Murphy, from Bedfordshire Police, said: “The action being taken in Luton is a stark reminder of how virulent and dangerous coronavirus is, and everyone needs to help stop the spread to keep us all safe and reduce pressure on the NHS.

“We’re really grateful to the vast majority of people who have been following the guidelines, and that made a real difference in driving down the rates over the summer. Unfortunately we are obviously seeing a real increase now, so it is vital that everyone is vigilant and adheres to the rules around social distancing, the rule of six and isolating when advised to following a positive test or exposure to those with the virus.

“We will be out patrolling alongside Luton Council’s Covid Marshalls explaining the rules, but will not hesitate to fine those who are flagrantly ignoring the guidance.”

Dr Kirti Singh, a GP at Malzeardroad and Medina Medical Centre, said: “As Luton moves into the higher tier of restrictions, and we are seeing more patients in our local hospital testing positive for and becoming very unwell with coronavirus, I urge residents to follow the government guidance of the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ campaign, do not meet more than six people outdoors and remember to keep your social distance; and do not visit anyone inside their home, or allow anyone to visit you.

“There is extra testing being offered in Luton and we are working hard to keep you safe.”

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