Response to government’s Plan B relaxation announcement

Published Wednesday 19 January 2022 at 14:37

Local leaders have welcomed the government’s decision to step down Plan B Covid control measures from next week, but are encouraging residents to stay alert to the transmission risks.

Denise Park, Blackburn with Darwen Council Chief Executive, commented:

Today’s announcement to end Plan B measures from Thursday 27 January will come as good news to many people.

Nationally and locally, Covid case rates are falling, and it would appear that Blackburn with Darwen may have already reached its Omicron wave peak.

I would urge residents to continue to keep up with their good work, and keep following the basic infection control measures – getting vaccinated, using rapid tests regularly, good hand hygiene and so on – to keep our Covid rates under control.

Blackburn with Darwen’s Covid case rate, using confirmed data to 12 January, is 1,621/100,000 people – a decrease of almost 37% over the last seven days.

Coun Mohammed Khan CBE, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, added:

While many people will welcome the easing of restrictions, we cannot drop our guard against Covid.

The single most effective things we can all do to protect ourselves, and to help keep the spread of Covid down, is to get vaccinated.

Everyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for a booster dose, and our 12 to 15 year olds are being offered a second vaccine dose.

With so many different places offering the Covid vaccine in Blackburn with Darwen, and with free transport available, we couldn’t make it any more convenient for local residents to have their jabs.

Until recently, and for almost six months since last summer, the borough’s Covid case rate was below the averages for England and the North West region. However, the Omicron wave led to an increase in cases to a level that Blackburn with Darwen has never seen before.

The borough has a number of factors that make it an ‘area of enduring transmission’.

Prof Dominic Harrison, the borough’s Director of Public Health, explained:

The impact of relaxing Plan B measures will be felt differently across England, particularly in areas classed as having ‘enduring transmission’ risks, including Blackburn with Darwen.

This means that the borough has a range of factors that have led to us having high numbers of Covid infections throughout the pandemic – such as having a high proportion of workers in frontline roles, and people living in multi-generational households where the virus is easily passed on. These factors still remain and could continue to be risks to the spread of Covid in the future.

Of the 20 areas of England classed as having enduring transmission risks, five are in Lancashire – and Blackburn with Darwen is 12th on the list.

Prof Harrison added:

Although the Prime Minister had made the decision to relax Plan B measures, the borough’s enduring transmission risks still exist. As a result, I expect that our local case rate won’t drop sharply, but instead will fall slowly and inconsistently, with some plateauing over the next few weeks, similarly to what South Africa has experienced.

This means that we all need to be on our guard as Plan B measures are relaxed, take sensible precautions and continue to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

There are five simple things we can all do to reduce the spread of Coronavirus:

  • Continue to wear a face covering in shops and on public transport, and in other busy or crowded places
  • Wash our hands regularly and carry hand sanitiser when we go out
  • Take regular rapid tests, particularly before mixing with others
  • Get fully vaccinated against Covid – including the booster dose
  • And keep rooms well-ventilated, particularly when spending time indoors with people we don’t live with.

More details of the easing of Covid restrictions under Plan B can be found on the website.

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