The Leader of Oxford City Council has called on communities to ‘pull together’ to slow the spread of coronavirus as Oxfordshire county moves into the new Tier 4 restrictions.
Susan Brown urged caution to slow down the spread of the virus over the next few months until the COVID-19 vaccine is fully rolled out. But she stressed there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ with jabs already being administered.
The move comes as the number of cases in Oxfordshire stood at 236.5 cases per 100,000 of the population as of 18 December. This represents a rise of 86% since 11 December. There were 1,636 cases up to 18 December compared to 878 in the week ending 11 December.
Under Tier 4 rules:
Ms Brown said: “For many of us, Tier 4 restrictions will start after we have already experienced what will have been a very different Christmas day, and as we approach the New Year. None of us want to be in this situation so it is really important that we follow the guidance, ensure we are not mixing households outside support bubbles and spend New Year’s Eve in our own homes.
“We all wish for a better 2021. To help ensure that, we must all pull together and take steps to slow the spread of the virus over the next few months until the vaccination is fully rolled out.
“To our Oxford businesses, who have just faced a really challenging Christmas and year, and are worried about the future, I want to reassure them that the Council will continue to work to provide all the support we can, while pressing the Government to offer further assistance. I am as frustrated as you are about the lack of planning, support and thinking ahead.”
She added: “To our residents, and in particular, to those who are shielding, I want to remind you that support is available and you do not need to go through this difficult time alone. I know many people will have had a lonely year. We want you to reach out so that we can put you in touch with people to talk to and support you. If you need support you can contact us on 01865 249 811.
“To our NHS and care workers across the city, and to all those key workers keeping vital services going from transport to retail, as well as our own City Council staff, and all those who have volunteered in their communities I want to say a big thank you. You have all worked so hard both during this festive period and throughout the year.
“While this feels a sombre moment, and we are leaving 2020 under stricter measures, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine is already being delivered to some of our most vulnerable citizens, and if we all play by the rules and support each other, we can help to keep Oxford safe.”
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “We are in a very serious situation, which means that people are once again being told to stay at home. The new variant of COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly and these rules are being applied for our own safety and protection. The numbers of cases across the county have risen very steeply and we have also seen sharp rises in hospital admissions.
“When we compare our current situation with that of just a few weeks ago, we can clearly see how quickly things can change and how aggressively the virus can spread if we let our guard down even by a fraction. We have seen during 2020 that this virus thrives on human contact. That seems to be even more the case with the new variant, which is 70% more transmissible and is increasingly becoming the dominant strain across the country.
“Tier 4 is a stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant. Unless we all take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks, we risk creating a situation in the early weeks of 2021 that will see further steep rises in the number of cases at exactly the time of year when viruses thrive. This means putting even more pressure on our NHS at its busiest time of year.
“The COVID vaccine has started to be rolled out to the over 80s and health and care staff across Oxfordshire. However, it will be some way into 2021 before this begins to provide protection to larger numbers of the population and make a material difference to the overall situation.
“I would therefore urge everyone to adhere to the new tier 4 rules and to take every precaution. We need to protect ourselves, our communities and the NHS as we enter 2021.”
How have you been affected?
If you have been affected by this story, or have any information to add, we’d like to hear from you. You can get in touch by filling in the form below, anonymously if you wish. We may contact you to discuss further.