Freedom Day: Health chief urges Leeds public to 'be cautious'

Leeds City Council's director of public health has urged people to continue to "be cautious" from Freedom Day on July 19 as  businesses across the city decide whether or not to keep Covid safety measures in place.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that lockdown lifting in England will go ahead from Monday, despite Covid-19 infections continuing to surge.

The Government's decision means that social distancing rules will end from Monday and the wearing of face masks will no longer be compulsory, although venues such as nightclubs are being urged to require "Covid certification" as a condition of entry.

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Victoria Eaton, Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council, said: "Rates of Covid infection are high and continue to rise therefore even after 19 July we should continue to be cautious, help to reduce the risk of spread and protect people at highest risk of serious illness.

Becky Wendel at Boheme Hair and Beauty Boutique in Farsley.Becky Wendel at Boheme Hair and Beauty Boutique in Farsley.
Becky Wendel at Boheme Hair and Beauty Boutique in Farsley.

"Please get both doses of the vaccine when called to make sure you have the highest level of protection.

"It is also really important that we all continue to reduce the risk of spread by washing hands, socialising outside, getting tested if you have symptoms, isolate if advised to do so and wear face coverings in high-risk settings such as health and social care services.

She added: "Thanks to everyone who has done their bit taking up the extra testing and getting the Covid vaccine here in Leeds."

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The YEP understands there are currently around 40 Covid patients at Leed Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which is a doubling from the week before, and includes around a dozen in critical care.

Victoria Eaton, Director of Public Health at Leeds City CouncilVictoria Eaton, Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council
Victoria Eaton, Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council

It is understood that patients are typically non-vaccinated and predominantly younger, since those groups were only recently called.

Their symptoms are serious - they wouldn’t be admitted to hospital otherwise - they may need ventilation but they do not generally need critical care.

Dr Phil Wood, chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals said: “We will continue to follow the public health guidance on our hospital sites.

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"We know that wearing a mask, washing hands regularly and practicing social distancing is effective and we would ask that people continue to follow this guidance, especially when visiting our hospitals.

"We would also encourage everyone over the age of 18 to get their vaccine as soon as possible.

"We want to thank the people of Leeds for their amazing support. We couldn’t have done this without you, but we still need your help to keep our patients safe."

Brian Oakley, general manager at The Light in Leeds, said: “Following the latest Government announcement, from July 19th, we will be advising our customers to continue wearing face masks within the centre, if they are not medically exempt from doing so. However, as per Government guidance, this will ultimately be our customer’s choice.

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“We will also continue to implement our social distancing measures throughout the centre until we feel confident that these are no longer required.

“We will continue to advertise these measures throughout the centre as a reminder to our visitors.”

Carl Thompson, owner of The Opposition Hairdressing in Cross Gates, said there will be no change in Covid safety measures at the salon to protect staff and customers.

Carl posted on the Opposition Hairdressing Facebook page: "The health and safety of our clients and the salon staff still continue to be paramount in these strange times, as a close contact service industry we want your experience in the salon to be relaxing and as safe as possible.

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"With this in mind we have decided that irrespective of the government's announcement scheduled for 19th July we will not be making any changes to our robust Covid-19 secure protocols in the salon at present.

"We will continue to wear masks for your protection and will require clients to do the same whilst attending appointments (those clients exempt because of health reasons we will accommodate).

"It is our intention to closely monitor the government's guidelines and review our position on these matters on a monthly basis."

Becky Wendel, the owner of Boheme Hair and Beauty Boutique in Farsley, said: "The lifting of restrictions at a time where the 'numbers' are increasing significantly is purely economic, we are all fully aware of this.

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"As an industry hit extremely hard, you would think that this would be the news we were waiting for.

"However, we still have vulnerable customers, we still have customers with family members that are at risk and we still have customers who are terrified of any normality due to the media narrative.

"Nothing will change in our work practices. We still have social distance contingencies, we will respect anybody’s thoughts on face coverings and whether we feel it necessary or not, our clientele must continue to feel as secure as we have endeavoured to make them feel throughout this time."

Leeds Playhouse executive director Robin Hawkes, said: “It is fundamentally a relief that after such a long period where this has been impossible, theatres will be permitted to reopen to full audiences from next week onwards – and it’s great that government has recognised through the Events Research Programme that going to the theatre can be a safe and secure experience for audiences to enjoy

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"But whilst theatres will be able to move onto the next phase of our pandemic recovery with this news, it’s by no means the end of that road. We know it’s going to take time to rebuild our activity levels, and we need audiences to support their local theatres by booking tickets to return to an experience which has been so much less available for so long.

"Further support from the government through the Culture Recovery Fund and to help secure insurance is likely to be necessary too.

"And whilst this will allow many more people to return, it’s critical at this moment that people who are more vulnerable aren’t left behind, so we must create an inclusive environment which is comfortable for everyone

At a Downing Street news conference on Monday, Boris Johnson acknowledged the pandemic "is not over" and appealed to people to proceed with caution.

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At the same time, he said postponing the easing of restrictions into the autumn would risk reopening at a time when schools are back from their summer holidays and people are spending more time indoors as the weather turns cold.

Official figures showed cases continue to surge with a further 34,471 laboratory-confirmed infections in the UK as of 9am on Monday.

The peak of the wave is not expected before mid-August, when there could be 1,000 to 2,000 hospital admissions per day, with deaths expected to reach between 100 and 200 per day.