As the Government’s announcement around step three rules comes into play across the city next week, the Director of Public Health explains what has changed and what has not and offers advice to ensure we keep infection rates low across the city.
From Monday 17 May, the public will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30 and meet indoors with family and friends following the rule of six people or two households.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, says: “We’ve been living in extraordinary times and have faced many challenges, individually and as a community. From next week, step three of the roadmap will allow us all more freedoms than we’ve had in long time, and while I’m sure many will rejoice, we must remember those who may still feel vulnerable and that the virus is still with us. Enjoy reconnecting with your families and friends, but don’t discard the knowledge and behaviours that keep us all safe.”
Individuals will be able to choose whether or not to keep a social distance from family and friends, as hugging will again be allowed. However, the public is urged to be sensible and cautious as restrictions ease.
Helen Atkinson, Director of Public Health for Portsmouth City Council, says: “Infection rates have remained low, so it’s right to cautiously further ease covid rules. I’m sure many residents and business will be thrilled with the relaxation of restrictions around meeting and socialising. I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the public for all they have done to help get our infection rate down. We’ve come a long way and learned how to keep ourselves and others safe, so I’m sure we’ll all enjoy meeting with those we’ve not seen face to face for a while knowing how to reduce the risks. It is still the case that the more people we meet, the more opportunities there are for the virus to spread, which is why regular asymptomatic testing is so vital in our continued fight against the virus.”
Anyone can take up the offer of twice-weekly covid testing when they are symptom-free to help stop the spread of coronavirus. This type of testing helps identify one in three people who become infected but show no symptoms: the more people who get tested regularly, the greater the ability to reduce the spread of infection. Home test kits are free and can be collected from many outlets around Portsmouth.
Helen Atkinson continues: “Washing hands more often has become second nature, as has wearing a face covering – protecting ourselves and others who may be more vulnerable to the virus. So now we need to think about who’s in our social group and whether it’s appropriate to get close or share a hug – so ask yourself, who’s had the vaccine, who’s yet to have a second dose, who has health conditions that could put them at increased risk if they became infected? Let’s take this next step safely. I urge everyone to continue playing their part by following the hands, face, space and fresh air guidance.”
Hampshire Constabulary’s Portsmouth Superintendent Clare Jenkins says: “We’re continuing to take encouraging steps out of lockdown, and all of our hard work and sacrifice is paying off.
“The number of fines processed continue to go down, which is to be expected as restrictions are lifted.
“We understand that people are excited to see their friends and family again after such a long time, but it really is vital people continue to follow the rules at each stage of the Government’s roadmap, or we risk undermining our efforts up to now.
“Our officers will continue to carry out patrols and will engage with the public to explain the restrictions which remain in place at the time, using enforcement as a last resort for blatant breaches such as large indoor gatherings.”