Wirral, along with the other Merseyside authorities, has been informed that it is being added to the government’s Covid-19 watchlist, signifying that the rise in the numbers of people infected in the region needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
The government has advised that Merseyside is now an ‘area of concern’, which means that local authorities will be required to work with partners - supported by regional Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace teams - to take additional actions to manage outbreaks and reduce community spread of the virus.
The actions recommended for an area of concern included additional targeted testing at high-risk areas or groups, enhanced communications around the importance of social distancing, hand hygiene and other preventative measures, as well as more detailed epidemiological work to understand where clusters of the virus are occurring so that appropriate action can be taken.
It is does not at this stage signify any additional local restrictions, but it does place areas on alert that without significant and immediate efforts to bring down the rate of infection, a localised ‘lockdown’ could be required.
Wirral Council Cabinet member, Cllr Janette Williamson, said: “We have been concerned about the rise in the numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Wirral over the past few weeks. We have already taken a number of steps, including ramping up testing capacity and issuing renewed advice and guidance to residents, to encourage them to do what they can to reduce the risk of them contracting the virus.
“Clearly, this development brings the reality of our current situation and that of our neighbours into sharper focus.
“Authorities will continue to do as much as we can - we are working closely with businesses to ensure that premises are adhering to Covid guidelines and with community leaders to strengthen our message to residents.
“But we really have to impress upon everyone the need for us all to be responsible with our behaviour and follow the rules extremely closely. We must ensure we keep Wirral well. We do not want a local lockdown. We know it affects the mental and physical wellbeing of our residents. We have seen the damage lockdown does to livelihoods and businesses. We can only avoid going back to that if people continue to play their part. We have a collective responsibility to keep ourselves and others well.
“Be more vigilant and get the basics right – wash your hands frequently, wear a face covering in situations where you might come into close contact with others outside of your own household but try to keep more than two metres away from others if possible.”