"This is the time to act": Central Lancs politicians react to new Covid restrictions
Politicians from across Central Lancashire have said that the new restrictions coming to the county from next week are vital to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
Several of the rules are already in force in the Preston City Council area, but as of Tuesday 22nd September, in all parts of Lancashire except Blackpool, there will be a ban on mixing between households in homes and gardens; hospitality venues will be required to close between 10am and 5am; and pubs and restaurants will also be restricted to table service.
Residents are also being strongly advised to avoid using public transport unless it is essential, not to attend professional or amateur sporting events as a spectator and avoid household mixing in public venues.
South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher, who studied epidemiology as part of her degree, said that the actions were targeting the situations in which the virus was known to spread most easily.
“I know people will be disappointed that they can’t meet with friends and family and have got to finish their last pint by 10pm. But we are trying to keep on top of an enemy that we cannot see.
“I was with the clinical teams at Chorley and Preston hospitals this week and they are starting to see an uptick in admission – so this is the time to act.
“This about family – people like my 90-year-old great aunt. I want to be able to look the people of South Ribble in the eye and say that we did everything we could to keep those vulnerable people with us and ensure that they don’t experience a period of significant ill health,” Ms. Fletcher added.
Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick said the people of the city had a tough time with the initial national lockdown and the additional restrictions imposed in Preston over a month ago.
But he added: “To see a stronger set of measures is very regrettable, but unfortunately, necessary.
“Preston’s infection rate is the third highest in the country – it would be madness not to take steps to bring this down and make Preston as safe as possible going forward.
“The evidence that I’ve seen indicates a significant rise in the infection rates of young people. With thousands of university students returning to Preston and, in particular, new students looking to celebrate freshers week, there are many ways of spreading the virus even further.
“I believe it’s imperative that these measures are not only introduced by followed strictly,” Sir Mark appealed.
Paul Foster, the leader of South Ribble Borough Council – where infection rates have risen, but slowed slightly in recent days – said that if action had not been taken, the situation was going to spiral.
“This could properly get out of control and people would die – that might sound harsh, but that’s where we are.
“This is, and will continue to be, a challenging time for all of us and we absolutely appreciate that. The government’s decision to implement these restrictions has not come lightly and is for the benefit of all of us to tackle this pandemic.
“What we know for sure is that in South Ribble, our strength is in our communities and I’m certain we can all work together following the new guidelines to get the cases down.
“There are now stricter rules on household mixing, trips to pubs, restaurants and other premises. We know this will be difficult for our residents and business but please be assured that the council will do all we can to support you,” Cllr Foster said.
Councillor Matthew Brown, laeder of Preston City Council, said: “It is clear the decision to introduce these new measures was made due to the continued and significant rise in cases not only in Preston, but across the region.
“While these new measures are important to help tackle the virus, more needs to be done to support residents, communities and businesses. We need an effective, locally-led track and trace service as well as adequate financial support those who must self-isolate but cannot work from home.
“There also needs to be a comprehensive support package for our already struggling businesses for whom these new restrictions will have a severely negative impact.
“This is a situation we desperately want to end. Please keep your family, friends and community safe by taking the necessary precautions and help us stop the spread of the virus in Preston.”
In Chorley, council leader Alistair Bradley said that the restrictions were “something which has had to happen to ensure the safety of all across Lancashire”.
“The rates across the region have been a concern for weeks and they are still on the rise.
“We appreciate it will be difficult and challenging, but it’s so important that we stick to the rules – it’s the only way we can tackle the pandemic. Please be assured that you are not alone in this and that the council – as we have been doing since the start – will do all we can to support our communities to navigate the changes.
“I have absolute faith that the communities across Chorley do the right thing and that these restrictions will lead to a drop in Covid cases in the area,” Cllr Bradley added.
Cllr Karen Buckley, leader of Fylde Council said: “The level of Covid-19 infections in Fylde is now rising and there is a particular risk of community transmission in social settings.
"Social distancing is our only means of combatting the spread of infection which is why the government have announced stricter measures across all Lancashire County Council areas as from Tuesday.
"None of us want to see the return of a total lockdown with the damage that brings to wellbeing, businesses and livelihoods. The new restrictions curtail our ability to meet up outside our household but we can still go to work, school or operate a business.
"Back in March the community response in Fylde was tremendous; we valued our keyworkers, we got stuck in with volunteering and generally looked out for one another. Six months on we’re weary of the disruptions to our lives and many of us know people who have suffered from Covid-19 or from the knock-on effects of living alongside the virus.
"All we must do is play our part to protect ourselves, our families and our colleagues and hope the rise in infection will be halted by these new measures and quickly.”