Suffolk is not out of the COVID-19 woods yet
With COVID-19 restrictions gradually and carefully being lifted, it can feel like we are slowly emerging from this pandemic.
In some ways we are. The number of deaths recorded each day is significantly reduced compared to just two or three months ago, shops and pubs are open again and people are able to move around more freely, with social distancing measures in place of course.
But most of us will be well aware that, nationally and in some specific towns and cities, secondary outbreaks are being seen. Local lockdowns have been imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. If this does not happen, we could well return to the strict restrictions that we saw in March and April this year.
Here in Suffolk, there have been 2,738 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That is 360 cases for every 100,000 people in our county. Across the East of England, there have been 411 cases per 100,000 and for England 489 per 100,000.
So why is Suffolk managing to keep the spread of COVID-19 relatively low? This is, in part, due to the way public sector organisations in Suffolk have come together to protect people, especially the most vulnerable, from COVID-19. This has been particularly difficult due to the speed in which they have had to react to uncertainty and their own challenges. Charitable and voluntary organisations have been exceptional, providing in some cases a lifeline for vulnerable people. Local businesses have played their part too, implementing new measures to protect their staff and customers.
Suffolk’s position is, in large part, also because of you and the many selfless acts of community-minded compassion that have meant you changed your way of life to kill off coronavirus. Whether you keep washing your hands regularly, social distancing or looking out for one another, it is all helping. Yes, not everyone is doing it to the same degree, but I would argue the majority are following the guidance, or ‘sticking with it’ as we call it.
By now, most people have had the experience of wearing masks or face coverings when out shopping, on public transport or in other enclosed spaces. I am heartened to see that most people are doing it.
Of course, this can be a real challenge for some. This includes people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental impairment or disability, where using a face covering will cause severe distress or if they are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate. We must be aware that some people are not able to follow this particular guidance, but the majority can and in Suffolk, I believe the majority are.
For this, and for all acts that slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, I want to thank you. It really does feel like a team effort in a contest we can win if we continue doing what we are doing.
Suffolk is not out of the COVID-19 woods yet, we would be foolish to believe otherwise. Complacency and ignoring the official advice would be the worst thing people could do right now. We can all play an important role in making sure Suffolk emerges from this pandemic as strong as possible. Now is the time to stick with it and keep doing all the things we are being asked to do to stop COVID-19 in its tracks.