Cheshire West and Chester Council proposes greater restrictions on household contact

30 September 2020

Cheshire West and Chester Council has proposed additional restrictions on household mixing, to tackle an increase in COVID-19 infections and protect public health.
In the letter from the Council to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, Councillor Louise Gittins has asked the Government to consider additional restrictions on mixing between households.  Cheshire West and Chester is currently excluded from restrictions which apply in Merseyside, Halton and Warrington.  The Welsh government has also implemented additional restrictions in neighbouring areas across the border.
Although Cheshire West has successfully kept infection rates lower than many other areas across the North of England, the most recent data shows a weekly infection rate of over 60 per 100,000 and continues to increase. This represents a doubling of the rate over two weeks. The borough also now appears on the Government’s national watchlist as an area of concern.
If Government endorses this proposal, new restrictions would prevent households from meeting up with other households in homes or gardens, with some exceptions set out in law.  
On 28 September, the borough’s Outbreak Management Board - a cross party group, with representation from business, NHS, schools and community organisations – assessed the latest rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.
The board concluded that, by taking further action now, it may be possible to avoid significant additional pressure on local health and care services and more restrictive lockdown measures in the future.
The Council is continuing to work closely with neighbouring authorities, to ensure consistency of approach and to prevent, as far as possible, different rules from applying between different council areas, and continue to put the case for more resources, more testing and more local contact tracing.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “We are proud of the response to the pandemic by our residents, who have made an inspiring commitment to fight this virus across west Cheshire.  This has helped to contain levels of infection in west Cheshire at below the levels experienced in other parts of the North.  
“However, concerning data indicates a rapid increase in infections and more vulnerable people being infected.  Many infections are being caused by households mixing.  People are more comfortable in their own homes with family and friends, but people aren’t safe in those situations as the mixing of households is spreading the virus. Some who have COVID-19 do not have symptoms but could still pass it on to someone else who could go on to develop more lethal complications.
“We propose these decisive actions with a heavy heart. We recognise that further measures will have a negative impact on the wellbeing of many of the people affected by them, so they shouldn’t be considered lightly. But, by acting now rather than later, they would address some of the most frequent causes of transmission of COVID-19, by limiting the virus’s ability to pass between different households. Evidence from cases within our area suggests that, by limiting transmission in the wider community, this will then help take pressure off our schools, NHS, care settings and key workers. 
“These measures come at a significant local cost, and we will bring proposals forward in partnership with neighbouring councils to ensure they are fully funded across our sub-region, alongside measures to support businesses that will be adversely affected. We realise the challenges caused by new restrictions but feel it is the best option to tackle this virus at this point in the pandemic.”
The Council will enhance its support for the most vulnerable people, ensuring that those who are isolated and need help are supported.  Extensive measures are also in place to protect residents of care homes.

The Government will make the final decision on whether to implement the restrictions. Discussions are underway with officials and the timeframe for a decision from Government is unclear, but residents will be informed of developments at the earliest possible opportunity.

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