Why the pandemic still isn't over for West Yorkshire a year after a 'major incident' was declared

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A senior West Yorkshire leader has warned that the pandemic is not yet over for the county a year on from the declaration of a 'major incident' as coronavirus rates remain among the highest in the country.

Robin Tuddenham, co-chair of West Yorkshire Prepared local resilience forum and Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, said there was "no clear data" of when the county could stand down from the "unprecedented" major incident status declared on March 20 last year.

Major incidents, which are usually declared for floods, major fires or similar emergencies, normally last for a day or two due to the intense level of effort required by the numerous agencies involved.

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But Mr Tuddenham said that "although we now have a roadmap out of lockdown, as outlined by the Government, this unfortunately doesn’t mean the end of the pandemic".

Though rates of coronavirus are falling in Yorkshire and the Humber due to lockdown measures and the impact of the vaccine, the decrease is slower than other areas of the country.

A breakdown by local authority shows Hull, Bradford, Wakefield, Rotherham and Barnsley all in the top ten areas in the country for the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

Mr Tuddenham said: "As it currently stands, there is no clear date of when we will be able to ‘stand down’ from this Major Incident.

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"While the number of people being admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 is the lowest since before Christmas, infection rates still remain high in West Yorkshire compared with the rest of the country, though they are falling steadily.

“Let’s do all we can to work together to reduce risk, keep safe and protect each other from harm. We have come a long way, and can begin to rebuild but need to be patient and mindful that we are not through this yet.”

The last year has seen members of the local resilience forum, a multi-agency partnership made up of representatives from local public services, tackle the pandemic as well as Brexit, flooding and major fires.

A spokeswoman said: "West Yorkshire Prepared, the region’s LRF, wants to take this opportunity to thank every person, community, business and agency for their hard work and ongoing efforts over the last year.

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"By working together, everyone has helped to reduce the spread of infection, engaged in a successful vaccination programme and enabled our communities to stay as safe as possible."

Dave Walton, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Deputy Chief Fire Officer of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We should all be extremely proud of what we have achieved together so far, for as bad as this has been for us all, it could have been far, far worse.

"However, our overriding message to everyone in West Yorkshire is this isn’t over yet. While we can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel, we need everyone to keep playing their part by continuing to follow the guidance.”

On March 29, people will once again be able to meet up with another household, or up to six people, outdoors.

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West Yorkshire Prepared is asking people in the region to continue to be mindful when out and about, avoid crowded areas and continue to follow social distancing rules.

For reliable, up to date information on Covid-19, please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus or www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.