Public Health Wakefield hints at more relaxed approach to enforcing Covid rules

The enforcement of remaining Covid restrictions in Wakefield is set to be relaxed to a degree, the area's director of Public Health has hinted.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:53 am

Anna Hartley said a "very restrictive" approach to enforcement was not "appropriate" at the moment, given a steep decline in the district's infection rate in recent weeks.

There were no Covid-related deaths anywhere in the district for the first time in eight months and there are currently 20 patients being treated for the virus at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield

The latest infection rate of 47 new cases per 100,000 is still above the national average of 25, however.

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Local cases have declined steeply in recent weeks.

Public Health continues to urge people to follow the rules, with bans on indoor gatherings still in place until at least mid-May.

But speaking at a Covid recovery board meeting on Tuesday, Ms Hartley said it would be "very challenging and probably impossible to enforce every single rule" and suggested a less stringent approach would be taken unless rates soar again.

She said: "As we move through the roadmap there's a balance to be struck between restrictions and freedoms.

"There needs to be that balance around supporting things getting back to normal.

Public Health continues to urge people to follow the restrictions still in place.

"It's very challenging for Environmental Health colleagues and enforcement colleagues, because you've all been out and about and you can see how people are enjoying the fact things aren't as strict anymore.

"Generally, it will be about keeping an eye on the data and hospital (admissions).

"But we feel quite comfortable that things are lifting and that feels like the right approach, rather than being very restrictive, which doesn't feel particularly like it's appropriate."

Last month, the council revealed it had fined two local hairdressers, based in Wakefield and Castleford, for running during the third lockdown.

Ms Hartley said it would be impossible for enforcement officers to punish every single rule breach.

Barbers, along with non-essential shops, were allowed to open again on April 12.

Pubs and restaurants have also started to serve customers outdoors.

Ms Hartley warned that the infection rate was likely to plateau and possibly increase again slightly as a "trade-off" for the hospitality sector reopening, but that that would not be "unexpected".

Having had the second-highest rate of infection in the UK several weeks ago, Wakefield's rates are now lower than Bradford and Kirklees, though higher than Leeds and Calderdale.

In response to Ms Hartley, Wakefield councillor Maureen Cummings told the meeting: "It does worry me slightly that we've released everybody over the last couple of weekends, and I know there's been a little bit of madness in the town centres.

"Let's hope that's not reflected in an increase, although you have warned us there may well be one."

Local Democracy Reporting Service