'Act now to avoid lockdown later', Preston leader warns
The leader of Preston City Council says that it would be better to reintroduce some relatively less disruptive measures to bring Covid cases under control rather than do nothing and risk an eventual return to full-scale lockdown.
Matthew Brown told the Lancashire Post that if the public health evidence pointed to the need for the government to move to its ‘plan B’ for dealing with the pandemic - which would include mandatory mask-wearing in some locations, the introduction of Covid passports for access to certain venues and people working from home where possible - then ministers should “do it now”.
He was speaking after the health secretary ruled out such a move at this stage - and as figures show case numbers in Preston have jumped by just over 40 percent in a week.
“Nobody wants to see ever again a situation where households can’t mix and we have lockdowns - but unless we get a handle on this soon, we could be heading towards that in a couple of months,” Cllr Brown said.
He also criticised the government for not bringing in measures to limit the spread of Covid in the classroom - and said that could pose a particular risk for areas like Preston, where vaccine uptake is below the Lancashire average.
“Where you have deprivation and people who generally don’t trust local or central government because of that deprivation and the way they perceive authority, then [some people in those communities] don't get vaccinated.
“And if children [from those households] then spread Covid to family members, it’s going to be a problem.
“There should have been more investment in safety measures in schools like ventilation and, in my opinion, they should have kept some of the other controls that they previously had in place. That’s not happened, so Covid is now going through the roof in schools - and this is a situation that could have been avoided.
“There needs to be more resource put into less well-off communities to get them vaccinated quicker. I’ve always said that the best way of saving lives is vaccinating as many people as you can as quickly as you can,” said Cllr Brown.
In Preston, 65.5 percent of eligible residents have received two doses of the vaccine, compared to the average across Lancashire’s 12 districts of 72.9 percent. Cllr Brown said that the variation between wards in the city is stark, with some having seen 95 percent uptake and others just 60 percent.
Chorley and South Ribble are both performing better than the Lancashire average for double-jabbed residents at 76.9 and 78.7 percent respectively - but both are also experiencing their own Covid-related concerns. Chorley has the highest case rate amongst 10-14-year olds in Lancashire and the second-highest overall in the county, while South Ribble has seen the biggest one-week increase in cases in the latest local data, up 41.5 percent.
Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley echoed public health calls for caution and vaccination.
“Naturally, we’re aware of increasing rates of Covid-19 in Chorley and across the UK, which was not unexpected as we move into the winter months.
“We ask residents to please act responsibly and exercise some caution as we all go about our everyday lives. By taking sensible precautions now, we can help protect our NHS and increase our chances of avoiding a return to tougher restrictions. We also urge all residents to get vaccinated and to take up the booster jab when invited,” Cllr Bradley said.