Be 'cautious, courteous and caring': Covid message for end of restrictions

Kele in her brightly coloured face mask ready to shop in Ipswich. Picture:SARAH LUCY BROWN

Kele in her brightly coloured face mask ready to shop in Ipswich  - health chiefs still expect people to wear them in enclosed spaces even after restrictions are lifted - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s public health chief has urged people to be “cautious, courteous and caring” as the county emerges from Covid-19 restrictions next week – and called on people to continue wearing face masks in enclosed spaces.

Stuart Keeble told Thursday’s Health and Wellbeing Board gathering of health and council representatives that while the vaccination programme continued to be successful, case numbers were rising.

The Public Health Suffolk director praised the work of schools in managing the virus spread, and said the six week summer break would provide a good break for circulation in those establishments, but stressed it was likely to be a “challenging summer” for numbers of people having to self-isolate – particularly among younger adults who have not yet had two vaccines.

His words came just days before Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’ unlocking of most coronavirus restrictions, in which wearing of face coverings will become a personal decision instead of a Government requirement.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk - Credit: Suffolk County Council

“I do believe we do need to move forward,” he said.

“There won’t be a perfect time coming out of the interventions we have had in place and the vaccinations have played an important role there.

“But we need to consider that not everyone is fully vaccinated yet. We need to consider the impacts and spread of Long Covid, and also there are people out there that even though they are vaccinated are still vulnerable – especially those immunocompromised.”

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The team has adopted a mantra of “cautious, courteous and caring” to help protect people and prevent the spread as much as possible.

“I think if we are being cautious if we are meeting other people that aren’t part of our household let’s try to do it in well ventilated places,” he said.

“If we have a good summer let’s get outside and continue to do that, or get windows and doors open.

“The point about caring is that wearing a face covering is about protecting others, it’s not about protecting ourselves. If you are carrying the virus and wear that it is a barrier for stopping the spread. Continuing to wear one is about caring for others.

“If we are in places where people don’t normally mix, enclosed spaces, it is still the right thing to do and that will help to protect everybody else in Suffolk as well.

“The point about being courteous is we know that some people even though they will have their vaccines aren’t being protected, and people still feel very anxious. We need to respect people’s space.”

July 19 will see the removal of many key restrictions, including the requirement to wear face masks, while nightclubs can re-open fully too.

The one-metre-plus social distancing rule will no longer be in the guidance and limits on how many people can meet together will be lifted.

Anthony Dooley, secretary from the Suffolk branch of the UNITE union demanded that “the board should unambiguously call upon government to reinstate immediately the compulsory wearing of face masks for those using public transport and those entering enclosed indoor spaces such as supermarkets, to demonstrate your understanding that in the public health crisis that still exists only the legal obligation to do so will provide the maximum protection to all residents in Suffolk”.

Latest figures for Suffolk indicated that in the week up to July 14 there had been 1,106 new cases of Covid-19, while the R rate, or reproduction value, of the virus for the East of England now stood at between 1.1 and 1.5.