PEOPLE are being urged to act sensibly this weekend as lockdown measures are eased in one of the most significant moments in the Covid-19 crisis.
From tomorrow, a number of businesses which have been closed since March will be able to re-open including pubs, restaurants, cinemas, visitor attractions and hotels.
But this presents a fresh challenge for the Bradford district, with health experts warning Covid-19 has not gone away despite a sense of normality returning.
That message is all the more important as figures show Bradford is second worst in the country for coronavirus cases behind Leicester, which was recently plunged back into lockdown.
The latest data shows Bradford has 45.8 cases per 100,000 population, the second highest in England behind Leicester with 141.3.
Professor John Wright, an epidemiologist and director of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, based at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, said: “Earlier this week, Leicester went back into lockdown and my big fear is that Bradford will be next.
“Cities like Leicester, Bradford and London right at the start of the epidemic, these were the places we were most concerned about – high population densities, people living very close to each other and so it’s a perfect environment for the virus to spread.
“But also large South Asian populations and these are the people at particular risk from this virus. So this weekend it seems as though everything is going back to normal, more easing of restrictions of lockdown – pubs, restaurants, hairdressers.
“But the virus is still circulating and it’s circulating more in Bradford than other places, so it’s a time to be particularly alert.
“This weekend, be vigilant, be careful.
“Keep practicing social distancing, don’t get too close to people.
“Avoid gatherings of people, wear a face mask when you’re out in public, keep washing your hands and look after each other. Every life is precious and we don’t want to lose anybody else.”
Bradford Council said Bradford has seen a decline in the number of cases of Covid-19 but the number of people testing positive for the virus is still too high – and the risk of localised outbreaks remains.
Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “The only way the economy can be sustained is if we all act responsibly. If you must go out this weekend remember to keep social distancing, you should consider wearing a mask and keep interaction to a minimum.
“As we take more and more steps towards easing lockdown, it’s easy to believe that Covid-19 is less of a threat to our health and the health of our family and friends. This is simply not the case.
“Covid-19 isn’t going away and we all need to do everything we can to prevent a second outbreak. Another wave of infection could be devastating and would require a second lockdown.
“Every individual, every family, every business and every service still has a role to
play in stopping the spread of this virus. Please keep yourself, your friends and your family safe.”
West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “Throughout the lockdown period, we have continued to engage with the public and explain our approach, which has been received across our communities with significant support.
“As we head into the next phase in the relaxation of Government restrictions, we will again be relying on this relationship to ensure the safety of businesses and shoppers, particularly in our major cities.
“Though some rules have been relaxed, we urge the public to remember the threat has not gone away. Social distancing is still necessary, with risks increasing significantly at less than the 2 metre distance. Please check and follow Government and public health advice.
“Of course, we have been working closely with our partners and across the commercial sector to ensure that as things change, this is achieved in the safest way possible.
“With this in mind, we will be deploying the appropriate level of patrols to match the increased numbers, but this will essentially amount to business as usual.
“If and when issues do arise, however, we have all the necessary resources in place to manage and respond to any eventuality.”
Meanwhile, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said mass coronavirus testing could reduce the likelihood of local lockdowns.
Mr Hunt wrote in a national newspaper that it took “far too long” for central and local governments to implement targeted testing amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in Leicester.
He said: “Why did we not just immediately test the whole city population? And why are we not doing this now in Bradford and Barnsley?,” Mr Hunt wrote in the paper.
“The quicker we identify asymptomatic carriers, the less likely whole cities will have to be locked down.”
Bradford South MP Judith Cummins has called on the Government to provide more clarity about placing an area into local lockdown.
During a meeting with Health Minister, Nadine Dorries MP, Judith Cummins MP urged the Government to be clear with information and data to allow local decision-making bodies to plan responses to a local lockdown.
She described the Government’s handling of local lockdowns as “shambolic” and pushed for a flexible local furlough scheme for areas under lockdown.