A personal message from Luton Council Leader, Councillor Hazel Simmons MBE
A new year brings fresh hopes and aspirations, especially after the experience of a dreadful 2020 which thankfully we can now leave to the history books.
Sadly, however, 2021 is starting in an even more challenging way with the Government’s announcement of a new national lockdown to help combat the virulent new strain of the Covid-19 virus.
The instructions are very simple and clear: You must stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
The latest figures show a really alarming increase in cases of the virus both in Luton and across the country.
I have never been prouder of Luton’s communities than during the last year when we have worked so hard together to beat this disease and am confident that, as always, we will pull together again, support one another and help keep each other safe.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone in Luton sticks by the rules so that we can finally control this horrendous virus and most importantly save lives.
The past year has been a terrible challenge for all of us and so many people have lost loved ones to this disease. Although there are these new vaccines and there is light at the end of this very dark tunnel, we still need a massive, collective effort from us all to finally rid ourselves of this menace that has caused so much heartache, misery and disruption.
The positive news is that a number of vaccines providing immunisation from the disease have become available and national government has a roll-out programme to ensure everyone is entitled to be vaccinated but this will take some time. In the meantime it is absolutely essential that everyone plays their part to help stop the spread of the virus.
This lockdown replaces the previous tier 4 arrangement with stricter rules and regulations in which the main message to the public is to simply ‘stay at home’.
The council has pledged to continue providing essential services during the lockdown period which is likely to remain in force until mid-February.
There is widespread evidence that the new variant of Covid-19, which is much more contagious than the original virus, is the main source of the rapid rise in the number of cases of infection.
In Luton alone, the latest data regrettably shows further increases in the rates of Covid-19 cases. The overall rate is now 681 cases per 100,000, with case rates among the over 60s nearly doubling in the last month and those in the under-10 age range having doubled during the past few weeks.
Scientists have confirmed that this new variant is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible – which means there is a much greater chance of catching the virus and passing it on. While the new variant isn’t likely to make you more poorly, it does mean that more people are likely to get the disease.
The increase in cases of Covid-19 is putting a great deal of pressure on healthcare services and resources and the responsibility lies on everyone to follow the guidance to help reduce the number of infections, help save lives and beat the virus.
Under the tougher new restrictions you may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law.
What you can and cannot do during the national lockdown
You must stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. The law will be updated to reflect these new rules.
You must not leave, or be outside of your home, except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
• shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
• go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
• exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
• meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
• seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
• attend education or childcare - for those eligible
Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings can remain open and should prioritise children who are vulnerable or are the children of critical workers.
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid-February for all except future critical worker courses.
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay to where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work.
You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.
You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.