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Rutland County Council leader Oliver Hemsley discusses Covid-19 following outbreak at HMP Stocken

Rutland County Council leader, Coun Oliver Hemsley, discusses staying safe from Covid-19 in his latest column:

A month into our third national lockdown, we appear to be nearing a tipping point in this latest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus infection rates remain high but are showing signs of declining in most parts of the UK. After several weeks in which our numbers have fallen, Rutland has found itself at the top of the national table for infections this week – something we’ve not experienced previously. Although we know a recent outbreak at HMP Stocken is the main reason for this increase, we can’t take anything for granted. With at least another month of lockdown remaining, we must continue to be overly cautious and protect one another.

Coun Oliver Hemsley
Coun Oliver Hemsley

Rutland’s director for public health spoke recently about the importance of acting within the spirit of the rules when it comes to exercising – urging everyone to stay close to home and not travel to other parts of the county to exercise, unless you lack space in the town or village where you live.

Heading outside for exercise is one of the few freedoms that remain open to us during lockdown. It’s also critical for our physical and mental health. However, I think most of us would admit that we don’t need our car to go for a walk, run or bike ride. Key to bringing the virus back under control lies in the many small decisions we make each day. If we bend the rules – even just a little – we risk spreading the virus and undoing a lot of hard work.

In the past week, Rutland’s public health team has also reached out to local businesses, offering further guidance and support. Businesses and their employees have been under huge strain throughout the pandemic. They’ve faced uncertainty, loss of trade and taken on extra responsibilities to make shops, factories and offices covid-secure.

Just as we need individuals and families to follow rules around exercise and travel, we need businesses to help their staff to work from home – if at all possible – and implement public health measures for their specific industry or sector. All of these small steps, when added together, help to keep the infection rate down and will get us to the end of the pandemic.

This third lockdown has been the hardest. If you’re looking for a positive to get you through the coming weeks, you need only look at the progress made by Rutland’s Covid-19 vaccination centre in its first full month of operations. As I write, the centre has administered the first vaccination to 94 per cent of Rutland patients aged over 80, as well as 93 per cent of those aged between 75-79 and 25 per cent of those aged 70 to 74. This is a tremendous effort.

Health workers, council officers and volunteers will keep going, to vaccinate even more people in the weeks and months ahead. We know what we must do to help and support them.

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