Covid restrictions not enjoyable but West Yorkshire leaders will do what it takes – Dave Walton

Dave Walton, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's Deputy Chief and co-chair of West Yorkshire Prepared, shares his insight on how the county is tackling the Covid crisis.

Friday, 16th October 2020, 6:00 am

At a time when popular opinion about what constitutes the ‘right’ next step in the fight against coronavirus seems increasingly divided, I want to share with you some of the thinking and debate that happens within the West Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum.

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We are just ordinary people doing some of the key jobs that are right at the heart of how we as a region are responding to the pandemic.

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Dave Walton is co-chair of West Yorkshire Prepared, the taskforce leading the response to coronavirus in the county. Picture: Mark Bickerdike

We’re responsible for the ‘big organisations’ such as the local authorities, the emergency services, all of the constituent parts that constitute the health sector, utilities and the military – and more.

We are tasked to co-ordinate our collective response, and we are mindful of the need to be consistent and proportionate.

We live in the areas that we serve and we are all heavily invested in ‘what happens next’.

We have our own personal thoughts and we also have our professional responsibilities.

We watch the same news outlets and read the same articles as you do.

I guess the one privilege we have is that we are all responsible for the extraordinary people on the frontline who are out there dealing with the virus, and we talk to them daily. So, this is how it is...

We know the vast majority of people are with us and are following the guidance, we know a good number of you are questioning whether the restrictions are going far enough, and we know the communities we serve are exhausted and frustrated by the situation that we currently, collectively, find ourselves in.

I’m not going to use this piece to berate those who choose not to follow the guidance – that’s a discussion that’s happening around us.

What I do want to do though is share some of our collective hopes and fears for the weeks and months in front of us.

I can’t adequately convey with words the passion that exists within the forum for us all to get this right, and to get it right when the judgement of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is so subjective and only available when hindsight is afforded to us.

We track ‘the numbers’ and we watch the trends. We question each other on our respective areas of expertise and we continually challenge our thinking.

Whilst we are not politicians, we are mindful that we are operating in a highly politicised environment. Our responsibility is to be objective and work with evidence.

Although it’s a much-used cliché in the context of the pandemic, we know that we are most definitely at a significant tipping point as I write this article.

We walk the tightrope between being an area with a ‘high’ alert level and one that is ‘very high’.

It may be that our course is set by events already in our past, but we don’t view that move to ‘very high’ as inevitable and we will continue to work to prevent it – and if that’s where we end up, we’ll work to reduce it.

What we do know is that local actions and local decisions most definitely can have a positive impact.

The work being done in Bradford to bring the rate of infection down was cited at the 10 Downing Street press conference on Monday by Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, as being “imaginative and consistent”, saying that if the actions taken so far had not occurred then we would be “in a substantially worse place than we are at the moment”.

The work in Bradford is being replicated across West Yorkshire and we are all learning from each other. Unfortunately, circumstances mean we’ve been working on this for a while now so we know what works – and what doesn’t.

I hesitate to say we are ‘good’ at this in West Yorkshire, but it’s safe to say that other affected areas are talking to us about our approach as we continue to develop it.

My plea, on behalf of all of my colleagues, is to stick with it. Please. It’s the only way that we can beat this thing anytime soon. All of the work we do is there to protect you, your families and your friends – it really is as simple as that.

We’re not enjoying enforcing restrictions on your day-to-day lives but collectively we will do what it takes.

In and amongst all of the things being asked of you, I’ll single one out to conclude this piece: it is really important that if you are required to self-isolate that you do it – no ifs, no buts.

Breaking the chain of transmission makes a massive difference to what the coming months look like and how you will live your lives.

It is going to be a bumpy, unpleasant ride but by an accumulation of good individual behaviours we can collectively make it a tiny bit more tolerable for everyone.

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Thank you,

Laura Collins