Virus ‘won’t end when the rules change’, warns Hertfordshire public health chief

Last night (July 12) Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled a lifting of most Covid restrictions from July 19

Public health chief Jim McManus is advising residents to be ‘cautious’ after the lifting of national Covid restrictions – as figures show a significant increase in cases in Hertfordshire.

Last night (July 12) Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled a lifting of most Covid restrictions from July 19 – including the legal requirement to wear a face covering or to socially distance.

And in the wake of the announcement, Hertfordshire’s director of public health Jim McManus has stressed that caution is still needed.

Public health chief Jim McManus is advising residents to be ‘cautious’ after the lifting of national Covid restrictions
Public health chief Jim McManus is advising residents to be ‘cautious’ after the lifting of national Covid restrictions

He points to data that shows a 69.4 per cent increase in cases in the county in the seven days to Saturday, July 10, – as well as increasing levels of hospitalisation.

And he points to the one-in-three people across the Hertfordshire and West Essex area that have yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

“There is no good time to exit restrictions – and whenever we do, we will have an exit wave,” said Mr McManus.

“[…] The issue will be down to how much we as residents, organisations and employers decide to stay safe.

“And if the caution I am seeing and hearing continues, then this third wave will be less harmful than other waves.”

Nevertheless, estimates suggest that there could be up to 100,000 cases of Covid recorded per day.

And Mr McManus says it’s a “sobering thought” that that could lead to up to 10,000 new cases of ‘long Covid’ per day.

“That alone should actually make us want to protect particularly younger people and do our bit,” he says.

Across Hertfordshire, the data shows infection rates are increasing most rapidly amongst 17-18-year-olds – with rates also rising ‘quite quickly’ in the 19-24 and 25- 39 age groups.

Of the 1.6million residents in the Hertfordshire and West Essex ICS area, one million have had their first vaccination – and of those 750,00 have had two.

But says Mr McManus: “There are still an awful lot of people not yet fully vaccinated – and the virus can reach them.”

And he stresses that the virus is “still out there” and that it “won’t end when the rules change”.

Despite the lifting of measures, there will still be travel controls and a duty to self-isolate, if contacted by Track and Trace.

And there will be, says Mr McManus, ‘very strong guidance’ on the wearing of face coverings in closed places, such as on public transport.

“I will continue wearing a face covering in every shop, to protect the staff in the shop and show respect and courtesy,” said Mr McManus.

Meanwhile, there will still be a duty on businesses and employers to keep their employees and their customers safe, which will be rooted in Health and Safety guidance and regulations.

Mr McManus stresses that this will mean different things for different businesses and he says it is ‘right that they should take that tailored approach’.

For a small newsagent it may mean, he suggests, continuing to limit the number of customers at any one time and to ask customers to wear face masks – but larger supermarkets, he says, may do it ‘slightly differently’.

And he points to other employers who have already said they intend to stick to a ‘hybrid model of working’ – with some employees in the office and others at home.

How do you feel about the decision to relax restrictions? If you run a local business what stance are you taking? Email [email protected]