Hertfordshire public health chief supports government’s decision not to ease Covid-19 restrictions

Last night (Monday) the Prime Minister announced the lifting of the restrictions would be delayed

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 11:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 11:30 am

The government’s decision to delay the easing of Coronavirus restrictions has been welcomed by Hertfordshire’s top public health official.

There had been hopes that all restrictions designed to halt the spread of Covid-19 would be removed on June 21.

But last night (Monday) Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lifting of the restrictions would be delayed – amid rising rates of infection from the ‘Delta’ variant.

The government’s decision to delay the easing of Coronavirus restrictions has been welcomed by Hertfordshire’s top public health official

Latest data shows that in Hertfordshire the number of Covid-19 cases has risen by 50 per cent since the end of May – with the Delta variant becoming ‘increasingly prevalent’.

And the government’s decision not to lift all remaining Covid-19 restrictions has been backed by the county’s director of public health Jim McManus who says it is “the best course of action to protect our residents”.

“We fully understand that many of our residents will have had 21 June in mind for some time,” said Mr McManus.

“But it is absolutely imperative – as was stated on 22 February – that we are guided by data, and not dates.

“Covid-19 is not going to disappear on 21 June and lifting all measures on that day risks reversing the significant progress we have made.

“We believe the delay to lifting all restrictions measures is the best course of action to protect our residents – which is our top priority – and that is why we support the government’s decision.

“This will help curb rises in infections while allowing the vaccine programme to do its job and help us keep as much open as possible.”

Last week Mr McManus – in his role as vice president of the Association of Directors of Public Health – had warned that lifting all measures on June 21 could lead to an increase in cases and an increase in those needing hospital treatment.

And in a blogpost he warned it would risk the introduction of new variants to the UK, which could ‘undermine’ the vaccination programme and ‘derail’ the path back to normality.

Nevertheless – despite backing the government decision – he recognises the disappointment and frustration it will cause.

And he has urged residents to continue to take the personal measures necessary to halt the spread of the virus.

“Of course, we know the delay will be a big disappointment and frustrating for many people,” he said.

“However, it is so important that people keep doing the basics – regardless of when the easing of restrictions is planned – so remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’.

“Please also keep testing regularly, self-isolate if required to and get the vaccine when you can or are offered it.

“If you need support to self-isolate, then please contact HertsHelp which can offer a range of services including delivery of essential food and medicine supplies as well as financial advice.”

Speaking on Friday, June 11, at a meeting of the county council’s public health and community safety cabinet panel, Mr McManus told councillors that the Delta variant was now the dominant strain.

And he said the data showed it continued to be “a very volatile time of infections”.

“What we know is that we have to work a lot harder to stop this new variant transmitting – but so far in Hertfordshire our efforts seem to have worked,” he said.

“It is always possible like other variants we could be overwhelmed – but so far things are working – and so far our residents are doing a great job.”

At the meeting he also reported that 725,000 people had received the first dose of the vaccine in Hertfordshire – and 474,000 with second dose.