05:24PM, Tuesday 22 December 2020
The Royal Borough entering tier 4 coronavirus restrictions is not where it wants to be but ‘we need to push this virus back’, the council’s health lead has said.
In an extraordinary turn of events, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire will now face a full lockdown over the Christmas period as the Government looks to curb a new COVID-19 variant spreading across London and the South East.
Tier 4 means that non-essential retail, hairdressers and the leisure industry must close, along with hospitality venues.
Residents are not allowed to leave their home without a ‘reasonable excuse’ – this can include work, essential activities or exercise, but travel outside a tier 4 area is not permitted.
Household mixing is also not allowed, with exceptions such as support or childcare bubbles and meeting one other person for outdoor exercise.
Speaking to the Advertiser this week, the borough’s lead member for health, Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) added: “It is devastating that we have had to move to tier 4 and it is an extremely inopportune time to have to do that with the festive period upon us.
“Not just for families who would ordinarily come together, but also businesses, the charitable and voluntary sector. It is not where we wanted to be at all.
“What is critical now is that Government steps up again to provide a higher level of support and packages.
“When you look at the data, it is the right decision for public health because we do need to push this virus back.”
Health experts do not know if the new variant of coronavirus has reached Berkshire yet, with Meradin Peachey, director at Public Health Berkshire, telling the news to a West Berkshire Council engagement board on Monday.
Cllr Carroll added that more ‘data analysis’ was needed to determine whether it had reached the Royal Borough, adding the variant ‘is prevalent in other areas and highly likely to spread’.
The health lead said it was ‘pleasing’ to see people taking the COVID vaccine, which has been slowly rolled out to the vulnerable over the last few weeks.
But he urged for people to still follow the guidance after they receive it.
“The vaccine is our ultimate way out of the pandemic,” Cllr Carroll said.
“You have two doses – and you won’t necessarily trigger a full immune response until seven days after the second dose.
“If you are not vaccinated, you can spread it [the virus] to someone else, and that can be someone’s family member. It is real life; this is not a game. It is imperative that everyone gets vaccinated.”
Cllr Carroll added that people should wait until they hear from the NHS and ensure they are registered with a GP.
He also said it was important to check in with others at a time when people’s mental health can suffer, saying ‘it is perfectly normal for people to be struggling’.
“We are going through an extremely difficult period and during this festive period in particular, most people will be very used to coming together with friends and family,” he said.
“It is perfectly normal for people to be struggling with their mental health, and it is vital that we all play a part to check in on one another.”
“If people are particularly struggling, they should make contact with the NHS and there are a number of fantastic helplines, like the Samaritans and Mind.”
Reacting to the news when it was announced on Saturday, Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams), expressed his devastation.
“I am absolutely devastated that the Royal Borough has moved into tier 4 – effectively a full lockdown,” he said.
“I understand the need to protect everyone and we have seen our rates of coronavirus increasing in the borough, but this news, at this time, is a devastating blow to thousands of families.”
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Residents living in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire will enter a new Tier 4, equivalent to a lockdown – seeing the end of the hopes for relaxed of rules over the Christmas period.