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Residents urged to stay at home as pandemic set to hit Bedfordshire

3 Apr 2020

People are being urged to adhere to government advice on staying at home as Bedfordshire prepares for the coronavirus outbreak to increase in the county.

Wards have been cleared at Luton & Dunstable and Bedford Hospitals as the NHS in Bedfordshire readies itself to deal with an increase in patients as the virus spreads. 

As the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK rose to more than 3,600, the number of people infected in Bedfordshire is expected to rise significantly over the coming weeks.

The government has asked people to stay at home to ease the rate of the spread of the infection, leaving for only essential tasks such as food shopping.

However, some people have continued to flout the advice. Dr David Kirby, Deputy Medical Director at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, said: "Our staff have pulled out all the stops in getting ready for the very sick patients we are expecting to see. We will do everything we can in the coming days and weeks.

"But we can’t cure this virus. The only cure is not spreading it. I implore local people to listen to the advice and play your crucial part. "By staying at home, you are protecting your NHS and you are saving lives. Don’t be the person that spreads this potentially fatal disease."

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group Director of Public Health Muriel Scott said:  “We are facing the greatest health crisis that our country has seen in a generation. Over the last week, we have started to see the number of infections across Bedfordshire increase day on day and while the NHS and partners in the councils, police, fire service and other agencies are working together to prepare for the surge and protect vulnerable people, we can’t do this alone.

"We have already heard that social distancing is starting to stem the doubling rate of infection, and so, it’s never been more important to stay home, ease pressure on NHS and keep the spread of the virus to a minimum. Lives depend on it and everyone has a role to play in helping us in the fight against Covid19.”

Bedfordshire Police has given enforcement advice to front line officers following specific training to allow them to issue fixed penalties where absolutely necessary.

Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire said: “We are working closely with all of our partner agencies – we all want to do everything we can to keep people safe. Our officers will be out patrolling the towns, villages, parks and open spaces this weekend to ensure people are abiding by the government advice to stay home.

"We do have the power to issue fines but we don’t want to have to resort to that tactic. I would ask that people take personal responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus in what is a public health emergency. Please, stay home – help ease the pressure on our NHS and save lives."

Cllr James Jamieson, Leader of the Central Bedfordshire Council, Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford Borough, and Cllr Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Council, released a joint statement, which said: "All of the public services are working closely together, pulling out all the stops to help those that need support, and most importantly, save lives.

“We urge people across Bedfordshire to follow the guidance to stay at home - every person that ignores this is, quite literally, putting other people’s lives at risk. Do the right thing and we will get through this together.

“Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway said: "I entirely support the policy of the force to engage first with the public and encourage them to heed the government’s very specific advice to stay at home unless absolutely essential. Officers will inform the public about the advice in the highly unlikely circumstance that they’re genuinely unaware of it. However, I’m told that there’s no mistake about it, if people are unreasonable they will not hesitate to use the emergency powers that are now available to them.

"I am in close contact with our hospital trust and emergency medicine staff. They could not be clearer that failing to do this will cost lives here in Bedfordshire so I cannot accept that anyone would have any justification in failing to heed the advice of our officers."

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