Public health experts in Bedford are concentrating their messages on trying to limit the damage they fear will be caused by the Christmas relaxation of coronavirus rules.
A meeting on Thursday (3 December) heard speakers line up to urge borough residents, who will be given a five-day easing of rules from December 23 to 27, to consider limiting the risks.
The Borough Council’s local outbreak engagement board accepted that the recently ended second lockdown has brought down infection rates.
“People have said to me this may be our last Christmas with nana or granddad,” said Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green) whose town centre Castle ward has one of the borough’s highest infection rates.
“I would say could you postpone it and celebrate in the spring, or even next summer.
“If you really love and care about those people maybe think can you hold off seeing them.”
Cllr Bywater believes it is guaranteed that the Christmas bubble relaxation, when people from three households will be able to mix for five days, will lead to a big spike in January.
That analysis was supported by Ian Brown, the borough’s chief officer for public health.
He said: “Coronavirus isn’t going to take Christmas off. The bigger the bubble, the more the risk.
“We’ve got to show caution or we risk a third wave in mid-January.”
He added: “My concern is that even with the best intentions and in the nature of any relaxation of the rules, I think we are bound to see an increase in cases as a result.”
The committee heard that the virus has an incubation period of about two weeks, after which a number of infected people will end up in hospital and potentially die.
The committee was told that there have been five deaths in the most recent seven days and that the number is expected to continue for a couple of weeks more before the most recent lockdown works on that aspect of the pandemic.
Mr Brown, who admitted he was “not one for parties”, urged people not to go to the maximum and treat the rules cautiously.
Improved ventilation, cleaning of surfaces, and social distancing would help, as would meeting outdoors and minimising contact with others.
He also advised people to choose their Christmas bubble wisely “because you are stuck with them”.
And Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur), the council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, said: “Lockdowns work and restricting your interactions with other people is exactly what we need to do at the moment to control the spread of the virus.”
Referring to the roll-out of covid vaccines she added that there is “an end in sight but we can’t lose our focus”.
The committee heard an update on the vaccine roll-out and urged people to be patient and wait for the call from the NHS. Residents may have to wait until Easter, the meeting was told.
Words: Local Democracy Reporter, David Tooley