Major incident declared at start of Covid pandemic in West Yorkshire stood down

A 'major incident’ that was declared at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in West Yorkshire has today been stood down.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 6:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th May 2021, 7:00 pm

West Yorkshire Prepared, the region’s Local Resilience Forum, announced it will be standing down the ‘Major Incident’ status that has been in place in the region for over a year.

But the group has also warned the public to remain vigilant.

After consultation with partners, including the emergency services, Local Councils and the NHS, it was agreed the alert level in the region can be downgraded, now activity across agencies and organisations has returned to a level that can be “safely managed” in each local area.

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A 'major incident’ that was declared at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in West Yorkshire has today been stood down.

Dave Walton, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Deputy Chief Fire Officer of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We declared a Major Incident on 20 March 2020 in response to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic due to heightened levels of activity in all our partner organisations, which far exceeded business as usual, and in anticipation of the situation worsening even further.

“Declaring a Major Incident enabled us to ensure all partners were working together, sharing resources where required, and effectively dealing with and responding to challenges.”

A Strategic Coordinating Group was established after the declaration, which enabled organisations to meet to agree the strategy and objectives and priorities for dealing with the Pandemic locally.

Together with Public Health England, the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health and Social Care, the group has since met virtually over 130 times to discuss arising concerns, infection rates and to agree the response to tackling the pandemic in the region.

Mr Walton added: “The roll out and success of the vaccine programme has offered a little light at the end of the tunnel, and the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown shows the path we need to stay on to ease restrictions. However, we are very mindful of the potential for rates of infection to increase as restrictions are relaxed so, as a multi-agency partnership, we will continue to work extremely closely together to monitor the situation, respond where necessary and offer advice to the public. If necessary, we will escalate the Major Incident once more.”

The group says a number of factors were taken into consideration before making the decision to stand down:

These include:

Most, if not all organisations, are operating at a level of activity considered to be tolerable in the context of a new normality.

Local infection rates continue to fall, albeit at a slow rate.

The vast majority of people at highest risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19 have now had at least 1 dose of the vaccine, and the vaccination programme continues to progress well.

Relaxation of restrictions last month has not resulted in widespread flouting of the guidance.

The NHS is not currently reporting any undue pressures.

In these circumstances it is important to reduce the burden on LRF members to allow more time to plan for recovery.

The group said: “While the stand down is reflective of the position across West Yorkshire, there are some local variations. Local Authorities are continuing to closely monitor their local infection rates and will take necessary action when and where required.”

They gave an update for each District in West Yorkshire:

Leeds: Positive progress is being made in Leeds through the rollout of the roadmap, continued efforts by partners and people locally and the success of the vaccination programme, bringing a sense of optimism to the city. However, as the virus is likely to remain in our communities for some time, it’s vital we all remain cautious.

All the cases currently in Leeds are the Kent variant, which is more infectious.

So, as restrictions continue to ease, it’s important to continue to take great care when out and about and meeting with family and friends. We can all help to keep infection rates down by doing the four big things – limit mixing with others, wear a face covering, self-isolate when necessary, and take up the vaccine when offered.

Bradford: Thankfully, across the district we are seeing both Covid -19 infection rates and deaths as a result of the virus reducing.

The roll-out of the vaccine across the district has resulted in almost 300,000 people (more than 56 per cent of our overall population) being vaccinated and over 83 per cent of those who are eligible have taken up the vaccine.

We will not become complacent just because rates are falling.

Partners across our district continue to work closely with everyone in our community to roll-out the vaccination programme and to remind everyone that we need to remain vigilant and continue to follow the government guidance of hands, face, space and fresh air.

Calderdale: The roadmap out of lockdown, the ongoing rollout of the vaccination and continued partnership work to tackle COVID-19 is bringing hope and optimism to Calderdale.

However, we need to remain cautious, as the virus is still in our communities and will be for some time.

All of Calderdale’s cases are the Kent variant, which spreads more easily, so it’s still so important to take great care when we’re out and about. We can all help to keep infection rates down by doing the three big things – limit mixing with others, wear a face covering and self-isolate when necessary.

Wakefield: Wakefield’s positive case rate is slowly starting to increase, following a period of decline.

The latest set of weekly data (22-29 April) shows a rate of 64.3 positive cases (per 100,000 population).

This is higher than the national average, which highlights why it is more important than ever that people do not become complacent. Some really promising news is that there have been zero COVID-19 deaths of Wakefield residents recorded in the last two weeks.

There are currently 15 COVID-19 patients being cared for by The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Kirklees: The vaccine roll out and the efforts of people across Kirklees mean that we’ve seen a sustained reduction in the number of cases in Kirklees over several months.

Deaths related to COVID-19 and people needing hospital treatment are also at some of the lowest levels we’ve seen for a year.

But we know we can’t afford to be complacent.

Our infection rates are still above the national average so we’re reminding everyone to keep following the guidelines so we can reduce the risks even further. We’re not out of the woods but there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

Tyron Joyce, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, said: “The Covid-19 rates in West Yorkshire continue to fall, which is thanks to the efforts of the majority of the public, who have done all they can to reduce the spread of infection.

This means we have been able to take the decision to downgrade the alert level in our region, but we still need to remain cautious and vigilant.

“Cases in our region remain higher than the national average, so we must all continue to follow the rules – keep your distance from those not in your household or support bubble, only meet friends and family outside, wear a face covering where required and keep washing your hands frequently.”

Robin Tuddenham, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, added: “All organisations and agencies involved in the response to this unprecedented emergency have gone above and beyond during extremely difficult times and circumstances. Many have undertaken tasks outside usual duties, such as the delivery of PPE, setting up testing centres and delivering groceries and medical supplies to the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We would like to send a huge thank you to everyone involved in the pandemic response for their incredible efforts. But we want to remind people the pandemic isn’t over yet.”

Rob Webster CBE, CEO Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, said: “The pandemic response has demonstrated that working together to address the needs of people in communities is embedded in all we do.

"Progress to date has been a real team effort – from a team of 2.7 million people living with restrictions and of organisations working together.

"On behalf of the health and care sector I want to pass my thanks to each and every one who has played their part in this major response so far.

"We can now move forward into the next stage with some hope and some caution.”