National lockdown, local lockdown, circuit-breakers, three-tier restrictions… where is it all going, and where will it end?
Predictions are difficult – especially about the future; and with Covid-19, a disease that has still not passed its first birthday, that well-known rule surely applies.
We could be slightly reassured that the virus will rage less fiercely in B&NES and the South West, than in those parts of the country worst hit in this second wave, as it was in the first. But with rates climbing quickly here and across the region it would be foolish to rely on that hope, or to think that we couldn’t go the way of Liverpool and Manchester if we do nothing to prevent it.
As I write this on Thursday, we are poised just above the 100 cases per 100,000 per week. Until recently this would have put us on an alert list and the government would be sitting up and taking notice and looking closely at the risks to our population. Now, because levels throughout the country are so high, this may not have the significance it did before, but it is still a point to note and we need to redouble our efforts.
So far the majority of cases have remained in the younger adult age groups, including in our two universities, where illness is usually mild, but we are just starting to see cases rise in older folk too and this could, and probably will, continue to rise. So far, we have not seen cases in care home residents, and the numbers of people with Covid in hospital is still very low although now increasing just slightly. We have had no Covid-related deaths for many weeks, but we know that deaths lag a few weeks behind increasing cases in vulnerable age groups. We have also had a generally good experience with our schools. So, how should we make sense of the good and the bad and how should we act?
Everyone will have their own situation and their own view and mine is just one. But I believe that we are at a point now where unless we all impose a sort of “partial lockdown” on ourselves, we are very likely to face a more complete lockdown being imposed by the government as we lose control of cases going deeper into the winter.
What do I mean by that? I mean that we should all think not about what we want to do, but what we need to do to maintain body and soul through the next six months.
I can’t tell you where that boundary between wants and needs lies. Everyone needs some social contact to maintain mental health, and loneliness is very harmful. People need to work, shop, exercise and do other things. But for many of us, there is much that we do that cannot be considered as essential or can be scaled back without any great hardship and harm. I therefore ask you all to ask yourselves the three questions I posed last week as you are planning your time and particularly if you are going out to mix with others.
- Do you need to do this?
- Is it safe and being done as safely as possible?
- Are the benefits worth the risks to yourself and others?
And this week I would particularly draw attention to two specific areas.
The first is to ask that if you are in pubs or restaurants in Bath or our other towns, and you leave at 10PM, you do not hang around the centres in groups, or cluster round entrances to shops, or go back to meet in large groups in houses or gardens. This sort of behaviour could quickly tip us over into the higher risk categories and lead to the closure of all our sources of evening entertainment.
Secondly, I would ask you to really limit how much you mix in your and other people’s homes outside your household or household bubble. The next stage of restrictions if our numbers get too high will be a ban on mixing of households, but it seems to make sense to me that we start reducing this high-risk activity now before we are forced to.
Finally, we will be sending out further information about Halloween and Guy Fawkes night (5th November) soon, but please think about keeping those low-key, safe…and Covid-safe this year.