West Yorkshire 'must act now to stop coronavirus pushing hospitals to the brink'
A Yorkshire council chief executive has warned that the region has a "very small window of time in which to take action" if it is to avoid coronavirus infection rates spiralling out of control.
West Yorkshire Prepared, the region’s Local Resilience Forum, met yesterday in light of increasing COVID-19 rates across the region and the presence of the new variant in local communities.
They have now issued a start message urging everyone to recognise that time is of the essence in the fight against the pandemic .
Robin Tuddenham, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, said: “It is a very serious and stark situation. At the moment, we have a very small window of time in which to take action – so it is imperative that we act now.
"We’re hopeful the national lockdown has been introduced in time but everyone needs to do even more than they did last March, during the first lockdown, if we’re to prevent infection rates spiralling out of control and our hospitals being pushed to the brink."
The new COVID-19 variant, which has seen infection rates soar across London and the South East in recent months, is already in West Yorkshire and data shows rates are increasing across all districts.
Civic and health leaders fear that if action isn’t taken immediately the region will see a repeat of what is happening in the South, where hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
The new variant is 70 per cent more infectious than the previous strain, which results in it moving through communities much quicker and with greater ease.
Toni Williams, Public Heath Consultant for Public Health England, said: “I have advised the LRF of the seriousness of the situation in West Yorkshire. The new variant is already present in communities in the region and rates are increasing.
"Although the number of cases isn’t as high as many parts of the country, data suggests the region could be on the same trajectory for infection rates and hospital admissions if nothing is done.
"Time is very much of the essence. We must continue to play our part and follow the national lockdown restrictions.” National restrictions introduced on January 5 as part of the third lockdown, require everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
This means people should work from home if they can and only leave the house or garden for essential reasons.
It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps set out new rules which, from next week, will require passengers arriving in England by boat, train or plane - including UK nationals - to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.