West Yorkshire health bosses warn of long Covid risk and hospital pressure as they urge caution after 'freedom day'
A partnership of NHS organisations in West Yorkshire is urging the public to remain cautious as lockdown measures are lifted on Monday.
This includes continuing to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces, in public transport and in health and care settings.
It comes as coronavirus rates continue to rise in Leeds, with the infection rate now at 564.7 new cases per 100,000 people - much higher than the national average of 329.9.
The number of Covid hospital admissions in West Yorkshire has slowly started to rise, WY&H HCP and LRF said, putting additional pressure on hospitals recovering from a backlog of cases.
The CEO for WY&H HCP, Rob Webster CBE, said: “Good hand hygiene, appropriate mask-wearing and common sense will continue to be essential in preventing the virus from getting further out of control.
"All health and care services across our area are extremely busy and we need to protect these important services if we are to prevent further waves of this pandemic.
"Lengthy periods of closure have been incredibly tough on our area’s businesses, and we know they will be eager to reopen their doors.
“We all have a responsibility to ensure we make the right decisions to keep everyone safe and especially if we are to return to a new sense of normal for everyone – which includes not living with long-Covid symptoms.
"People’s chances of having long-Covid are real and could affect people’s lives for the rest of their life. It's extreme in the most disabling way.”
More than two million people in England are thought to have had one or more Covid-19 symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks, with more than a third reporting persistent symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks, according to a recent REACT-2 survey.
NHS staff in West Yorkshire will be expected to continue wearing face coverings and to social distance where required at work, the partnership said, with the public strongly advised to follow suit in hospitals and other health settings.
West Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service have also strongly advised their workforces to continue wearing appropriate PPE where necessary.
Kersten England CBE, CEO at Bradford Council and Co-chair of the LRF, added: “As with previous steps taken to ease restrictions, we must all remember that by reintroducing freedoms into our lives, we are also presenting further opportunities for Covid-19 to spread.
"Everyone has made sacrifices in the fight against the virus, and by being cautious we can continue to protect people’s health and livelihoods.
"It is essential if we are to prevent future lockdowns. Vaccinations are helping mitigate the impact, but do not remove the risk of serious illness completely.
"The virus remains with us and it likely, we will have to learn to live with it for a considerable time yet.”
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