A leading Bedford politician is urging residents to show caution when pubs, restaurants, barbers and hairdressers re-open this weekend.
With a lack of up-to-date data still dogging public health officials in their response to the coronavirus outbreak, Cllr Louise Jackson said they have had to use professional nous to sniff out potential problems.
“The prime minister calls it a whack-a-mole strategy,” said Cllr Jackson (Lab, Harpur). “We know there’s a mole out there but we can’t see it and we are blindfolded.”
While Cllr Jackson, who holds the health and wellbeing portfolio, says the council has been proactive, and boosted its environmental health team, there is a lag in the data on outbreaks.
This means if someone tests positive for covid-19 public health officials might not know about it for days, in which time more people could be infected.
“If people go to pubs and restaurants this weekend, they should act like they have the virus,” she said.
“I sound like a broken record when I say it but you should wash your hands regularly, and stay two metres apart.
“And if you are in a public space, you should wear a mask.”
The music and pub-loving councillor added, “I would love to go to the pub this weekend, I really would, but I am going to stay away.
“I am not going to go because it is my community. I am not in an at-risk group but if I have the virus I could transmit it to anyone.”
But she shied away from advising people to do the same, saying venues had all received guidance from the government.
“But I know lots of pubs and restaurants have decided not to open this weekend,” she added.
“It’s an incredibly difficult decision because they are all struggling but many have decided not to open because they want to protect their staff and they understand that the infection rate is high in the town.”
As 300,000 residents, and hundreds of businesses in Leicester are made to go back into lockdown this week, Cllr Jackson thinks it could help reinforce the message in Bedford.
“We are NOT in a Leicester situation,” she said. “We have been proactive in our messaging but we have a long, long road ahead and people are starting to understand that we are not in a good place.”
The council has this week launched its outbreak control plan, which sets out how it would cope with outbreaks in the community.
A meeting of a new local outbreak engagement board is set to be held at 5pm tomorrow (Thursday) to agree the plan.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter