As the government announced new the new ‘rule of six’ the number of COVID-19 cases in Cumbria rose in the last week.
45 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the county in the week ending 4 September – up 11 from the previous week.
Early indications for the current week suggest the numbers are continuing to increase.
The local increases reflect the national picture in the England where cases are increasing in all areas.
In response Government has announced a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, setting a new limit of just six people on gatherings indoors and outdoors.
From 14 September – when the new rules apply – it will be against the law to meet people you do not live with in a group larger than 6 (unless you are meeting as a household or support bubble).
The police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notice) of £100, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £3,200.
A number of exceptions apply and full details can be found on GOV.UK
In Cumbria, Barrow-in-Furness reported the highest number of new cases, up from 0 to 11, with additional cases being reported during this week.
Indications are that cases in Barrow are associated with a number of distinct and unrelated clusters, with infection having been brought into the town by people returning from elsewhere.
A dedicated Incident Management Team has been set up by the county’s Public Health team to monitor the situation and guide the public health response, the same approach as taken in Carlisle previously.
Case numbers are still low, but officials are keen to prevent further spread.
As expected, a small number of isolated cases are being identified amongst pupils and staff returning to schools, but as yet there have been no outbreaks associated with schools or evidence of infection spread between pupils.
Again additional support has been put in place to ensure schools have the advice and support they need.
High demand for testing is continuing, with nearly 7000 people tested in the last week, which is resulting in some being unable to book a test at a local centre.
Public Health have worked with the local NHS to make additional testing available for school pupils if required and agreement has been reached with Government to prioritise availability of Mobile Testing Units in Cumbria given their importance in ensuring local availability of testing.
Work continues to secure new fixed public testing sites in towns around the county.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said: “We are now clearly at the point where there is significant risk of a second wave as we head into winter.
“Government is tightening restrictions now to try and prevent that, while also trying to allow society continue to function. This is a difficult balance and inevitably some things may feel contradictory.
“But there is good sense behind what is being put in place and I am fully supportive. We really need everyone to take note of the new regulations and act accordingly. If we fail to get a grip now then there is the risk of further restrictions that no one wants.
“So I’d urge everyone to stick to the new rules around group sizes, continue to wash your hands regularly, cover your face when in enclosed spaces and maintain social distancing.”
Assistant Chief Constable, Andrew Slattery, of Cumbria Police, said: “From Monday the Coronavirus Regulations are going to change and Government has been clear that action should be taken by the police where these laws are being broken.
“In line with police forces around the country we want to work with the public to keep everyone safe and will do so using our established approach of Engage, Explain, Encourage and as a last resort, Enforce.
“In our experience, people often say that they are unclear on the rules and are happy to comply when they are explained.
“But in a minority of cases we do have to take enforcement action, and we will continue to do so as necessary.
“I would urge the public to comply with the regulationsand remember why they have been put in place.
“We have previously seen people looking for the loopholes or trying to justify why they shouldn’t have to comply and this really is not helpful. The rules are in place to protect everyone’s health and they rely on us all behaving responsibly.”
The weekly COVID-19 situation update is published at: www.cumbria.gov.uk/stopthespread