Suffolk's public health chief urges caution as England finally unlocks from 482 days of coronavirus lockdown
Suffolk's public health director has said being cautious is the best way to protect your freedom as England is finally released from coronavirus lockdown.
Today almost all lockdown measures have ended, with social distancing rules and facemask mandates scrapped, and nightclubs and sporting venues set to open after 482 days of unprecedented Government restrictions.
But Stuart Keeble, Suffolk's director of public health, urged people to continue to wear masks, keep getting vaccinated, and said being cautious was the best way to avoid the dreaded ping from contact tracers.
"If people aren't concerned about the risk for themselves the practical issue is the more and more people that get infected now the higher risk you are of having to self-isolate because you are a close contact," he said.
"So taking caution now will probably enable you to retain some of your freedoms more going forward. A lot of the rules will go today, but actually I think, as people in Suffolk have been, we just need to take it sensibly and that will get us to where we need to get to more quickly."
But the great unlocking comes as rates of coronavirus are increasing across the country, and Suffolk yesterday reported 323 new cases of the virus.
Mr Keeble urged people to continue getting their jabs, maintaining good ventilation indoors and meeting outdoors if possible, and the importance of testing.
And he said facemasks played a vital roll in slowing the spread of the virus. "We need to be caring about others. I wear my face covering not to protect me but to protect others," he said.
"The face cover is really important for protecting other people so if you're going to be in crowded spaces, and enclosed spaces with people you don't normally hang out with, I think it's the right thing to do."
And Mr Keeble added despite the rules being lifted people needed to be courteous to others. "There's a lot of people who are very anxious and worried about the roadmap and the unlocking," he said.
"Vaccination provides a huge proportion of the population with good protection there are others that aren't fully protected, maybe they have some form of autoimmune or immunodeficiency that would mean they're not fully protected, so I think we give everybody a bit of space who we don't know that will help to reduce the spread, but make people feel more comfortable."
Despite the rise in coronavirus cases in Suffolk it is so far not affecting pensioners, the most vulnerable group, in the same way it has done in previous waves.
Rates of infection of those aged 60 and above are now at 20 per 100,000, but is dwarfed by infections in those aged 59 or younger.
In this age bracket, which would have been vaccinated later than the older cohort and are less likely to seriously suffer from the virus, almost 190 people per 100,000 had reported a positive case with infections being most prevalent in 15 to 29 year olds.
And deaths in Suffolk have remained very low too. The last fatality with Coronavirus recorded on the death certificate was the week of May 28, but this is a lagging indicator.
With more cases these rates are expected to increase, as is the number of people who will be admitted to hospital because of the affects of the virus.
"We are seeing hospitalisations increase, so people just need to take it steady," said Mr Keeble. "If you haven't had your vaccine get vaccinated but also for now to continue testing because it does help to identify further cases as well as trying to help manage the increasing cases as well."