‘Everybody needs to be taking action now’ – Suffolk health chief on how to avoid further restrictions

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said the county is at a "key stage" in its Covid-19 battle Picture:...

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said the county is at a "key stage" in its Covid-19 battle Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

The boss of public health in Suffolk said the county was at a “key stage” in its fight against Covid-19 – and called on everyone to take action.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in East and West Suffolk Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in East and West Suffolk Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Following the decision to put East and West Suffolk on to the regional watch list on Thursday night Stuart Keeble, director of Public Health Suffolk, said that cases were rising everywhere in Suffolk.

How bad is the situation?

Despite this stark warning he said the numbers remained low compared to the rest of the county and said another lockdown was still a “number of steps” away.

He said: “Generally we have higher cases in most of the larger towns, you would expect that.

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“At the moment what I would say is we don’t have any areas where there’s a major hotspot in one small area. Generally we are seeing an increase across the board.”

Where are the cases coming from?

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Mr Keeble said he was mindful of some localised outbreaks, such as at Bernard Matthews, but said that this did not account for all of the rise in the figures.

“We’re getting some asymptomatic cases in care home workers,” he said. “Rightly the national testing system is identifying them, they’re self-isolating.

“I think it’s demonstrating that actually PPE being used and the infection prevention control is working because we’re not seeing a large increase in outbreaks in care settings.

“We’re also seeing a wider number of cases in households – maybe a couple of people in a household.

“So when you look at that, it starts to add up. It’s not a specific town.

“We’re not seeing it all in one place. That’s the key message: It’s not that we need to lock somewhere down, it’s that everybody needs to be taking action now.”

What is a watch list?

Mr Keeble said action could still be taken locally before any involvement was needed on a national level.

He said: “Effectively at the moment, you have a national watch list. And and if your rates move up to a certain level, then you will then be taken up into the national processes.

“But there’s a number of steps before we get to the kind of language around lockdown.

“There’s a number of things that we can ask local people to do.”

Mr Keeble said the advice applied to all people across Suffolk, not just those in the East or the West.

What is the advice?

Stuart Keeble has re-emphasised what he wants the people of Suffolk to do to help fight the coronavirus.

“I appreciate it gets boring because it’s the same messages over and over,” he said. “But actually it’s more true now than ever.

“We’ve got the next six months to get through winter, I think this is the bit that we’re all looking at.

“We need to try to break that transmission now to enable us to carry on doing the things we want to do in Suffolk.”

1. Keep your distance

He said: “We need to keep our distance. As human beings, we’re connected creatures. We want to hug our parents. I haven’t hugged my parents since lockdown.

2. Limit social interactions

He said: “We need to think about: do we need to be mixing with all the people we’re mixing with?

“The more people we spend time with the greater the risk. Obviously we have the Rule of Six. But if you meet with six people one morning and six different people the next afternoon and six the next day, that likelihood is that will increase the risk.”

3. Wear a mask

He said: “Clearly it is now the law to wear face coverings [in certain places], we have to wear them. But actually, if there’s any places you think you can’t keep your distance from people, then I think people should look to wear a face covering.

“I appreciate people might find it a bit annoying but it helps.”

4. Self-isolate

He said: “If we don’t keep our distance, we’re going to have to self isolate.

“You could have to self isolate on a number of occasions.

“If people are having difficulties financially there is money available to draw down. There’s a hardship payment, but also we have got our own financial support line as well.”

The Suffolk Advice and Support Helpline is 0800 068 3131 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

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