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Covid Concerns in Bucks

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Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, offers some thoughts on minimising the risks of Covid-19

Dear Resident,

I'm writing to you again because, as you will have seen on television and heard on the radio, coronavirus cases are rising again across the country. This is particularly apparent in the north of England and Scotland, where increased restrictions on everyday life have been re-introduced. To avoid similar restrictions needing to be being introduced here I would like to offer some more advice and information. This is particularly important as we move towards colder and darker weather — which naturally makes us all want to stay indoors more.

While we still remain in a much better position here in Buckinghamshire than in many other parts of the UK, with lower detected infection rates than in the north of the UK for example, we are increasingly concerned about the rate that cases are rising within the county and in particular within the former South Bucks district area. So now is the time for us to take action.

Pulling together and taking responsibility for what we do as individuals will give us the best possible chance of getting on top of this. If we don't, we all could be in for a really tough time over the coming months.

Latest data for Buckinghamshire
We now have a weekly case rate of 22.8 cases per 100,000 residents. This is from positive test results in Buckinghamshire in the 7 days leading up to 26 September. That is up from 16.9 cases on the previous week, a rise of 35% across Buckinghamshire as a whole. You can see this data in more detail, including the number of cases in your local area, by checking our website.

We are seeing more cases in some areas than others in Bucks. There are currently more cases overall in the Wycombe area than in other parts of Bucks, but more people live there. We also know that cases are currently rising more rapidly in the former South Bucks and Chiltern District areas than in other places. The former South Bucks District area has the highest rate of cases per 100,000 people, currently standing at 35.5.

To put these figures in perspective, all of these are far lower that many areas in the north of England which have rates of over 200 per 100,000. Our numbers are however moving in the wrong direction and we must not be complacent.

What can we do?
We all have a part to play in stopping the spread of the virus. Our best defence is to follow the most basic rules — Hands, Face, Space:

* Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
* Wear a face covering as often as possible where advised or required such as in shops or restaurants (while you aren't eating and drinking) unless you are exempt.
* Keep a minimum of two metres (6ft) away from anyone you don't live with or with whom you're not in a support bubble.
* Book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms and make sure you and anyone else you live with isolates immediately (call 119 if you can't book a test online).

If you have a smartphone, download the NHS COVID-19 app which supports the test and trace system.

The more each one of us does to limit the risks, the harder we make it for the virus to spread. The available evidence suggests that the virus is being spread by meeting people we know, particularly indoors. I am not suggesting that we stop meeting family or friends or going out to restaurants, however there are some simple steps we can all take:

Consider limiting the number of people you come into contact with — the fewer people we see, the less chance we have of catching and spreading coronavirus.

The risks are much higher indoors. I know the weather has been terrible of late and we've had an additional battering from the rain and floods, but, where possible — can you wrap up and meet others outdoors instead of inside. For example, consider going for a walk with friends?

Always stick to the rule of six — none of us should be meeting in groups of more than six people, including children.

When you go to the pub or a café or restaurant, make sure you follow the new rules at all times by wearing a face covering, unless you're eating or drinking and not mingling with other tables even if you see someone you know. Stay seated and move around the venue as little as possible.

Some areas bordering Buckinghamshire currently have higher numbers of cases — if you go somewhere outside Bucks for work, to shop, to eat or see people, take a look first at what's happening in that area. You might want to ensure you take extra measures to protect yourself and others.

Please think hard about how your own choices might impact others. Unfortunately, this is how the virus works. We all have a part to play in protecting the people in our communities who are most at risk from the virus. Our community spirit here in Bucks is incredibly strong, so let's keep that up and look after each other.

Financial support if you're isolating
If you are on a low income and have been told by the NHS Test and Trace system to self-isolate but you can't work from home, you may qualify for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.

Check our website to see whether you qualify and apply.

If you can't apply online please contact your local Test and Trace Support Payment team on:

Aylesbury area: 01296 585 858
Chiltern area: 01494 732 077
South Bucks area: 01895 837 515
Wycombe area: 01494 412 227

Stay safe, protect Bucks
The last thing any of us wants is for any freedoms to be curtailed even more because of this virus. We want to keep our businesses open and our economy strong. We want to carry on being able to see friends and loved ones safely.

To do these things we all have to use our basic common sense when going about our lives. Please make sure you're all aware of the current guidance and what we all need to do as we try to control the virus and turn the current rise in infections back round. I cannot stress enough how vital this is as we move into winter.

We really are at another critical point in the pandemic so please, I urge you to take on board what I've written to you today, and above all, keep looking after yourselves and each other.

Stay safe,

Martin Tett
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council