Local people urged to stay alert as rule changes come into force

With further easing of restrictions on Monday 29 March as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, Portsmouth’s public health director is calling on local people to continue to exercise caution.

The local picture for coronavirus continues to move in the right direction – 100 people living in Portsmouth were confirmed to have the virus in the last seven days. More than 83,000 people in Portsmouth have received the first dose of the life-saving vaccine – but local people are being urged to remember that the virus is still present, and still poses a threat.

Helen Atkinson, Portsmouth City Council’s Director of Public Health said: “It’s important to remember that when we meet with more people, there are more opportunities for the virus to spread. As restrictions lift, we could see a surge in cases – while we hope this won’t lead to further restrictions, not everyone has been vaccinated so people can still become very ill and, in the worst cases, die from this disease.

“We all have a part to play in making the roadmap a reality – continuing to follow the hands, face, space guidance, taking part in regular testing, getting vaccinated when it’s your turn and not mixing with other households indoors. People in Portsmouth have stuck to the rules so far, and their actions have made a difference – and I’m urging everyone to continue playing their part.”

The changes due to come into play from Monday include a return of the rule of six – or two households – which will allow people to meet outdoors, opening of outdoor sports and leisure facilities and the return of organised outdoor sports, including grassroots football. Though the stay at home order lifts, holidays still aren’t allowed and people should continue to limit the number of journeys they take and work from home where they can.

Households should still not mix indoors – the virus spreads much more easily in enclosed spaces. If someone needs to enter a home that isn’t their own – for example, to provide childcare or carry out essential maintenance – keeping windows open can help limit the risk of the virus spreading.

Superintendent Clare Jenkins said: “It’s been a long time since we’ve all been able to meet with small groups of friends and family outdoors, and this will no doubt provide a welcome boost to many of us after what has been a very long and difficult winter.

“While we want people to enjoy being able to gather with friends and family again, we ask them to do it safely while abiding by the regulations and remembering the rule of six when meeting outdoors.

“Our officers will continue to engage, explain and encourage in the first instance, however enforcement action will be taken for blatant or repeated regulation breaches.”

The changes on Monday mark the first of four steps between March and June to see the country emerging form lockdown. The government will closely monitor four things to see whether it’s right to move to the next step – progress of the vaccination programme, evidence that vaccinations are stopping people going into hospital and becoming very ill, that the NHS isn’t under strain due to the number and seriousness of infections, and whether any new variants of concern emerge.

Local residents and businesses can also help slow the spread by using the NHS COVID-19 app, and taking part in asymptomatic testing. This type of testing – used when no symptoms are present – helps identify the one in three cases that don’t show symptoms. There is information about the type of testing available – which now includes testing for businesses, for households and support bubbles of children at school or college and for those that need to leave the house regularly – on the council’s website at www.portsmouth.gov.uk/community-testing.

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