What comes after Freedom Day? – Lockdown easing

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

ONCE again, we stand on the edge of the great unknown with what will hopefully be the final relaxation of restrictions next Monday.

It has been a long time, 16 months on and off since we were fully allowed to go about our daily lives unhindered, and for some, the final easing is simply fantastic news that will be embraced wholeheartedly.

But that will not be the case for everybody and there will be those that remain either unable or are simply reluctant to take advantage of the new ‘normal’ and it is them we must consider more than ever as we move forward.

Some people have yet to venture out properly since the first lockdown began way back in March 2020, because no matter what the scientists and the Government say, they still feel vulnerable.

Perhaps, an underlying health condition is at the root, or they may just have lost their nerve, fearing the consequences of venturing out of their own homes to share their space with strangers.

And yet, we have made great strides In the Bay where an impressive 84% of the adult population have received their first injections and 70% have received their second, lessening considerably the likelihood of them contracting the virus or being hospitalised should they do so.

In fact, research on a national level by Public Health England (PHE) estimates that 30,300 deaths and 8,151,000 infections have been prevented as a result of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, up to 25 June.

PHE also estimates that 46,300 hospitalisations have been prevented in people aged 65 or older in England up to 27 June (approximately 7,000 admissions in those aged 65 to 74, 18,000 in those aged 75 to 84, and 21,300 in those aged 85 and over).

Nonetheless, like most of the rest of the country, infections here in the Bay are spiralling with 365 cases per 100,000 people, which pushes us, somewhat unusually, above the national average of 261. Or put another way, back to the highest levels seen last October.

That means that since this all started, more than 5,000 people in the Bay are known to have contracted the virus, which is around 3.75% of the population or one in 26 people and sadly, 167 of them did not survive.

Thankfully hospital admissions remain low at Torbay Hospital despite the spike in the number of infections, and we have the vaccines to thank for that, though it is the younger people, those reluctant to have the injections, that are bearing the brunt.

It is going to be interesting to see how people tackle the new normal and we must all learn to tolerate and respect each other’s reactions when the barriers come down on Monday.

The best advice from informed quarters is to continue to be cautious and to remember that coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. There are more than 4,000 people in the Bay whose vulnerability will mean that they may choose not to take that chance.

Another national report shows that the proportion of adults reporting to always or often maintain social distancing is already falling albeit slightly last week (66%) when compared with last week (68%); this is down from the 85% seen between 14 and 18 April following step two of the roadmap in England.

Yet, a  high proportion of adults felt that compliance measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) were either very important or important; such as wearing a face-covering while shopping (91%) and socially distancing from others not in their household, childcare or support bubble (87%)

The Prime Minister when announcing the relaxation of restrictions was at pains to stress the need for caution if we are to stay on top of the virus no more so than here in the Bay, which and as the school holidays begin, we can expect our streets to fill to bursting with staycationers.

He also warned that it down to everyone to ensure we emerge carefully from this latest lockdown to avoid another in the Autumn when temperatures fall and the virus can again take hold.

Each of us is responsible for not just our own safety, but the safety of others and we must respect each other’s right to continue to wear masks, social distance and avoid crowded places inside and out.

As we know all too well, personal freedom is one thing, accidentally infecting a vulnerable stranger, albeit unknowingly, is quite another.

If you are one of those who needs help coming out of lockdown, please ring the Helpline on 01803 446022 or use the online form – bit.ly/torbayhelpline.