'Preston can't relax': partial lockdown restrictions introduced to combat Covid spike
Prestonians will wake up this weekend to new restrictions designed to reverse an alarming rise in coronavirus cases in the city.
As of midnight tonight (7th August), households in the Preston City Council area are not permitted to mix in other people’s homes or gardens, whether in Preston or elsewhere – nor in indoor public venues like pubs and restaurants. An exception applies for households which have formed a “support bubble”.
The announcement came after a week of speculation that Preston would be the next part of Lancashire to become subject to new Covid-19 rules, as the city stubbornly refused to fall out of the top 10 areas with the highest case rates in the country.
However, the data shows that the spike in cases in the city is also being driven by transmission amongst people mixing in each other’s homes.
“When people bring [others] into their home, it’s their sanctuary – they’re relaxed about it and they tend to let their guard down,” said Preston City Council’s chief executive Adrian Phillips.
“The virus is exploiting people’s lack of attention to the real danger that’s there. We know this is going to restrict the way people live their lives, but it’s incredibly important that everyone across our city boundaries abides by these new regulations.
“Considerable resolve [will be needed] to get the virus outbreaks down to the level that they had been heading down to – and then it’s constant vigilance from then on.
“The key message is that you can’t relax – until a vaccine is proven, everyone is going to have to moderate their behaviour and be incredibly careful,” said Mr. Phillips.
He added that more stringent restrictions would be required if case numbers did not start to fall.
The latest data shows that there are 31 Covid cases for every 100,000 people in Preston – a slight reduction from earlier in the week, but still far above the England average of eight.
The percentage of positive tests in the city stands at 3.3 percent – more than double the average across England – and in the seven days to 4th August, there were 61 new cases identified.
It is understood that cases are being reported right across the city – and while some wards have higher rates than others, particularly those with poor socio-economic conditions, there is a roughly equal split between all of the city’s communities.
Although he stopped short of asking people to go further than the law required them to by avoiding venues which are legally allowed to remain open, Lancashire’s director of public health said that the new rules which apply to such places are vitally important.
“In circumstances where the incidence [of Covid is high] and there is evidence of household transmission – particularly asymptomatic transmission – we really want to avoid household members mixing in pubs and clubs,” Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi said.
Deputy chief constable of Lancashire Police, Terry Woods, warned residents and businesses that things would “feel different” from this weekend – with extra officers being deployed to Preston from across Lancashire to enforce the new rules. Environmental health officers and even the fire service will also be involved in the effort.
“A lot of public agents will be going into bars and other venues and will be proactively checking CCTV, speaking to people and checking that households aren’t mixing together,” DCC Woods explained.
“Our approach will be friendly, but we’ve got a job to do – our key role is to make sure people adhere to the rules that are there for entirely good reason.
“I’d like to send a message to the small minority of people who are deliberately flouting the rules and endangering the rest of us – they can expect action to be taken against them.
“We can remove you and direct you to go home. If you are a business, there is a high likelihood of repercussions and, at the higher end, you can expect fines.
“The vast bulk of Lancashire has been fantastic up to now, both public and business – please continue to be so, as this is a really serious situation. Life is at risk and we really need public support and co-operation in the coming weeks,” DCC Woods added.
Preston will now be added to the legislation which enables the new rules to be enforced in areas like East Lancashire where they are already in place. Those regulations are reviewed at least once a fortnight.
Dr. Karunanithi said the situation in the city should be taken as “an early warning sign” across those parts of Lancashire where cases remain low – and act as a reminder of the need to abide by the basic public health guidance.
For people in Preston, that includes anyone with even mild Covid symptoms arranging a test at the facility at Preston’s College.
“Follow the two-metre rule indoors and outdoors, wear face coverings, wash hands – and particularly avoid mixing with other households,” the public health boss urged.
The Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF) – the organisation leading the county’s response to the coronavirus – made a request to the government for Preston to become a restricted area, as concern grew about the spike in cases.
The Lancashire Post understands that there was ongoing debate about whether the city should become an area of intervention – as it now has been designated – or an area of enhanced support – receiving extra test and tracing help, but with no restrictions – until not long before the announcement was made late on Friday afternoon.
LRF chair Angie Ridgwell made a direct appeal to the people of Preston: “I urge everyone to take especial care and really respect these requirements. It’s for you – to make life better.”
THE NEW COVID RULES FOR PRESTON
People living in the Preston City Council area should not:
meet people you do not live with inside a private home or garden, except where you have formed a support bubble.
visit someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside of the affected areas, in places like South Ribble and Chorley.
socialise with people you do not live with in other indoor public venues – such as pubs, restaurants, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions. If you run a business or organise events, you should take steps to ensure people do not interact with people they do not live with.
visit friends or family in care homes, other than in exceptional circumstances. Care homes should restrict visits to these circumstances.
There is no change for people in Preston to the ‘pause’ in shielding, which began on 1st August – meaning that they can still leave their homes if they wish.
You can continue to use registered childcare provision, including childminders and holiday childcare providers. However, friends or family who do not live with you cannot visit your home to help with childcare unless they are part of your support bubble. The only people who can help you with childcare in your home are people you live with, people in your support bubble, or registered childcare providers.
People living inside and outside of Preston can continue to travel in and out for work.
***Where people from single adult households (people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18) have formed a support bubble with another household, they can continue to visit each other, stay overnight, and visit other public places as if they were one household.
***You can continue to meet in public outdoor spaces in groups of no more than 6 people, unless the group includes only people from two households.
***At all times, you should socially distance from people you do not live with – unless they are in your support bubble.