Julia Burrows, Barnsley Council’s director of public health, says she believes it is ‘risky’ to reduce preventive measures now, against a backdrop of ‘high numbers’ of people in the borough being diagnosed with the virus.
“While many people will welcome this next stage of moving on, we do still have high numbers of people being diagnosed with Covid in Barnsley every day, even though rates are now falling,” said Ms Burrows.
“The latest case rates for the seven-day period ending January 15 are 1,231 per 100,000 population, which equates to over 3,000 new cases in a week.
“My professional view is that it is risky to be reducing all preventive measures now, given our local high infection rate and recent increases in Covid deaths across the country.
“The basic infection prevention measures we’ve become used to over the past 22 months also protect against other viruses and infections, so have a part to play in helping to keep the economy thriving and education settings open by reducing levels of illness in general, particularly at a time when children’s education has so badly affected as a result of Covid.
“The absence of rules doesn’t mean absence of risk, and I’m mindful that the return to ‘freedom’ will leave some people feeling vulnerable and nervous about the implications and it won’t feel like freedom to everyone.
“It is reassuring that in general Omicron causes milder disease and that being fully vaccinated provides a high level of protection against severe Covid illness.
“Our current high infection rates mean there’s still an increased chance of experiencing an unpleasant illness, which can have long-lasting effects, even if you aren’t hospitalised with it.
“It is still highly worthwhile to choose to continue wearing masks in crowded and indoor public spaces to protect yourself and others from infection and illness.
“We’ve really seen Barnsley pull together over the last two years and hopefully people will continue to be considerate to those around them while we are all still living through a pandemic.
“Even though there may still be some bumps in the road to come, it will be a relief to many to finally be able to hope the end is getting closer.”