Covid restrictions extended: Blackpool will received enhanced support to tackle Delta variant - but what does it it mean?

Blackpool will to receive an Enhanced Support Package from the government aiming to suppress the spread of the Delta variant and break chains of transmission.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 7:04 pm

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirms restrictions will not be fully lifted until July 19 at the earliest as infection rates rise due to the Delta variant.

Last week, other local authorities across Lancashire and Greater Manchester received the same support measures with additional areas announced today.

Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health for Blackpool Council, said: “We welcome any interventions by Government that are aimed at supporting our existing testing and vaccination programmes.

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus on July 14. Pic: PA
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus on July 14. Pic: PA

“As it stands, most of the offers of practical support are already being delivered on the ground as we have a robust and proactive programme of community testing and vaccination in place.

“Infection rates in Blackpool have been consistently below the North West average throughout the pandemic. However, in line with many other areas across England, Blackpool has recently experienced an uptick in cases mainly related to outbreaks in a small number of community settings, particularly amongst our young adults who have not yet had their vaccinations.

“This is to be expected as society opens up, and this is why we all need to continue to follow all the COVID guidelines including hands, face, space and fresh air. The important point is that this is not currently translating into increases in the number of people who are seriously ill or hospitalised.

“What I would urge is that when offered a vaccination people should readily accept it as that is the best way of restoring normal life.”

Councillor Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, added: “Blackpool is open for business and there is no need for people to cancel their travel plans. This is not a travel ban, it is simply about asking people to be vigilant and take extra care in going about their daily lives.

“Our tourism industry is operating to COVID-safe standards, supported by enforcement activity and COVID marshals on the streets. We have mechanisms in place for people to be able to report potential breaches of compliance and we will act on those as appropriate to protect residents and visitors alike.

“To ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience, people should plan ahead, take a cautious and sensible approach to social contact with others and follow all rules around social distancing and wearing face coverings where required.”

The new guidance

-Take particular caution when meeting anyone outside your household or support bubble

-Meet outside rather than inside wherever possible

-Maintain social distancing, keeping 2 metres apart from people that you don’t live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them)

-Wear a face covering where required

-Wash your hands, wipe surfaces and keep windows open

-Minimise travel in and out of affected areas where possible - there is no travel ban in place and people can continue with holiday plans

-Continue to work from home if you can

-Testing and vaccinations

What the council says:

A council statement said: "Blackpool's businesses remain open and operating to COVID-safe standards supported by public protection activity and COVID marshals on the streets. But we all must take extra precaution and follow the coronavirus guidance at all times.

"The new COVID-19 variant spreads more easily from person to person, so we all need to do everything we can to control the spread of the virus. We urge people to plan ahead, take a cautious and sensible approach to social contact and follow the current guidance.

"Please ensure that you get vaccinated when you are invited (anyone 25+ is now eligible) and encourage others to do so as well. Anyone eligible for a vaccine in Blackpool can also book an appointment at Blackpool Victoria Hospital online. ​You need both doses of the vaccination to get the full protection from coronavirus.

"1 in 3 people will have covid without symptoms - you could unwittingly be spreading the virus without realising, so making sure you're doing those quick, rapid, symptom-free tests (later flow tests) regularly is very important. Everyone of adult age and pupils at secondary school and colleges should be doing this twice weekly - you can do them from home or at one of the community symptom-free testing sites and you get results in 30 minutes.

These rapid tests are free, kits can be ordered online, taken at / or collected from one of our community testing hubs or by calling 119. If your rapid test returns a positive result, you need to arrange a PCR (lab) test and self-isolate."

Delays to easing of restrictions

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has been forced to delay the end of England's coronavirus restrictions by up to four weeks after being warned the move could lead to thousands of deaths and unbearable pressure on the NHS.

The Prime Minister announced the setback to the final phase of his plan to end the lockdown on Monday due to concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta variant first identified in India.

Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on June 21 as planned could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19 heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.

To avert this, Mr Johnson said during a Downing Street press conference that it is "sensible" to put back the end of all legal limits on social contact to July 19, saying he is "confident" no further delay will be necessary.

He hopes deaths will be significantly reduced by that point because two-thirds of adults will have then been offered both vaccine doses due to the delay being coupled with a reduction in the time between jabs for the over-40s.

Limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas will therefore remain in place, nightclubs will stay shuttered and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.

Downing Street left open the option of ending restrictions on July 5 if the data proves drastically better than expected but conceded this is "unlikely".

Mr Johnson did, however, announce a limited easing of restrictions to take place from June 21 as he faces the prospect of a rebellion from Conservative MPs who are furious about the delay.

The 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as wakes, will be lifted, with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.

Care home residents will also no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving for visits in most cases.

Fans were expected to be able to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final in Wembley as the pilots on attendance of large events continue.

Mr Johnson said: "It's unmistakably clear that vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll-out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves.

"But now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people."

Mr Johnson felt he had to delay the relaxation after at least one of his four tests to easing restrictions - that the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants - had been failed.

Officials also called into question the test to ensure infection rates do not lead to a surge in hospital admissions that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Modelling by the Government's Spi-M group suggested there was a possibility of hospital admissions reaching the heights of the first peak in March 2020 if the relaxation went ahead on Monday.

Experts believe the Delta variant is driving a rapid accelerations in cases, estimating it is between 40% and 80% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first found in Kent.

Ministers were expected to hold a vote in Parliament on Wednesday in order for the Government to be given the legal powers to extend the restrictions.

Mr Johnson will hope the limited restrictions he has approved will reduce the scale of the rebellion on the Tory backbenches.