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Rutland County Council leader Oliver Hemsley discusses Christmas in the coronavirus pandemic

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We’re now getting to the stage of the year when people are counting down to Christmas in days, rather than weeks, and we’re all looking forward to spending time with friends and family, writes leader of Rutland County Council, Oliver Hemsley.

For those who eagerly await this time of year, it’s been particularly heartening to see the return of annual festive events like Christmas Markets and late night shopping, which took place in Uppingham last Thursday and is due to be held in Oakham on Monday. These are always hugely popular events and full credit must go to the organisers in our community who work incredibly hard to make them possible.

The challenge of organising large-scale events and even small family gatherings has increased considerably because of Covid-19, which has taken on a new and potentially more ominous form as Omicron – the new variant which we are all now learning about. The timing of this omicron variant and the reintroduction of national safety measures like mandatory face coverings in shops is eerily reminiscent of the run-up to Christmas last year, when news of a possible covid vaccine was dampened by the second national lockdown.

Coun Oliver Hemsley
Coun Oliver Hemsley

The indication from Government so far is that a further lockdown won’t be needed this winter.

I truly hope this is the case because I know just how much people are looking forward to reuniting over Christmas. However, we can’t afford to be complacent. The prospect of a more transmissible variant means we must all take extra care – particularly as we enter the Christmas party season and start to meet up with lots of different people.

I had the misfortune of spending 10 days in self-isolation last month due to a positive covid test. Being confined to the same room for over a week isn’t a pleasant experience, although it is necessary and important.

While we hope to avoid another Christmas lockdown, there is always a chance that a positive covid test and self-isolation will disrupt long awaited Christmas plans.

With this in mind and for the safety of our whole community, I strongly urge everyone to double down on following the latest public health guidance: keep washing your hands regularly, wear a face covering in shops and on public transport unless your exempt, open windows if you are meeting people indoors, and keep taking rapid covid tests at home at least twice a week – especially before going out or meeting others.

Make sure you get your covid vaccine and take up the offer of a booster.

I know this advice is largely unchanged since the start of the pandemic. However, it remains the case that each of these actions, when taken individually, can help to stop the spread of Covid-19.

If all of us do everything that is asked in the covid guidance and we do this consistently, we can reduce the rate of infection in Rutland and keep each other safe this Christmas.

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