“Exercise caution over Covid to avoid more restrictive measures” says Bedford health chief

Mask wearing may become mandatory again in shops and on public transport

People should continue to exercise caution over Covid to avoid more restrictive measures being put into place as the winter looms, a meeting heard.

Bedford Borough Council’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board received an update on the Government’s Covid-19 Plan from Ian Brown, the chief officer for public health at its  September 16 meeting.

The Government’s autumn and winter plan is divided into two sections, with the second part coming into action if the NHS comes under sustained pressure.

Plan A details the baseline measures we should all take, whatever happens, including vaccines, antivirals and treatments – including booster doses and first doses for 12 to 15-year-olds.

PCR and lateral flow tests will continue to be available free of charge. Testing in educational settings will continue until the end of term.

Contact tracing will also continue, as will practical and financial support for those who need to self-isolate.

But Plan B could include introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid-status certification in certain settings, including nightclubs, indoor crowded settings with 500+ attendees, outdoor crowded settings with 4,000+ attendees, any settings with 10,000+ attendees.

Exceptions will include communal worship, protests, mass participation sporting events

It could also include legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, likely to include public transport and shops and re-instating advice to work from home if possible

Mr Brown said: “We shouldn’t underplay things such as letting in fresh air when meeting indoors, meeting outdoors while we can, and encouraging people to wear face coverings when they are in crowded or enclosed spaces.

“I think it’s really important for people who are visible in public life to continue to demonstrate the behaviours we want to see in the whole population.”

He added: “Whilst people can mix publicly now, thinking about limiting social contact and maintaining social distancing in public spaces remains highly sensible advice.

“These are things we can do to be more cautious now so we won’t perhaps get to a point where we need to implement more restrictive measures.”

Councillor Christine McHugh  (Lib Dems, Goldington Ward) said the number of Covid related deaths across the UK was still very high.

“I have a fear that most of the Government’s Plan B should have been in Plan A,” she said.

“But there’s nothing to stop us showing some leadership and wearing masks and keeping socially distant.

“If we want the best outcome from this, we have to take care over this very critical winter period.

“We should prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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