Health bosses in South Tyneside and Sunderland have issued a stark warning to local people as the health and care system prepares for further easing of the lockdown rules this weekend.
People are being urged to continue following Government guidance around social distancing and regular handwashing, or risk further lives being lost to COVID-19.
As pubs prepare to re-open on Saturday 4 July, many may be looking forward to meeting up with friends and enjoying a few drinks, but with Coronavirus still prevalent in the community, the message from local health leaders remains clear. People must stay alert to protect themselves, protect the health and care system and reduce the risk of a future spike in COVID-19 infections which could potentially lead to additional public health measures, similar to the current situation in Leicester.
Directors of Public Health in South Tyneside and Sunderland, alongside leading doctors at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, are urging people to stay vigilant and continue to act responsibly.
Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The further easing of lockdown rules this weekend does not mean that COVID-19 has disappeared from our communities. We have all made great personal sacrifice to control the rate of infection in South Tyneside and Sunderland, but all of that could go to waste if we don’t continue to follow the national guidance around COVID-19.
“We know many people may be tempted into their first social outing to a pub or restaurant at the weekend and whilst we appreciate the need for social interaction, we are genuinely concerned about any additional pressure on our local NHS if people drink too much.
“Our Emergency Departments and 999 services will always be there to care for those with serious and life threatening emergencies but we’re asking people to take personal accountability for their actions.
“Too many people have already lost loved ones in South Tyneside and Sunderland and it is up to each and every one of us to play our part and act responsibly.”
Tom Hall, Director of Public Health at South Tyneside Council, said: “While we understand that some people may be keen to go out this weekend, it is critical that they follow the social distancing guidance as the virus is still active in our local communities. People have a responsibility to protect themselves, their family, their community and their health and care system.
“It is still vitally important to follow the guidance around hand washing and social distancing. Social distancing has been amended to 1m+ when staying 2m apart is not possible. It is important to remember that this 1m+ guidance only applies when other mitigating factors, such as a face covering or regular hand sanitising, are used as well.”
Gillian Gibson, Sunderland’s Director of Public Health, said: “We know some people will be planning to make the most of the lockdown restrictions being eased further this weekend, but the fight against COVID-19 is far from over and we all have a responsibility when it comes to fighting the virus. So it’s vital that we all continue to observe social distancing, carry on washing our hands more often and stay at home as much as possible to help control the virus and save lines. The best way we can ensure cases continue to fall and lockdown measures are not reinstated is to be sensible and continue to follow the advice.”
During COVID-19 anyone in need of NHS help and support is being advised to ‘talk before they walk’ and speak to the appropriate service via telephone before turning up to ensure the NHS can adhere to strict social distancing and infection control measures. During the day, people should contact their GP practice in the usual way. If it is urgent and out of hours call NHS 111. In a serious or life threatening emergency always call 999.