Coronavirus cases are “rocketing” in Bristol, according to the city’s public health chief.
Christina Gray, director of public health at Bristol City Council, issued the stark warning last night (June 15) saying cases had leapt by 150 per cent in a week.
It comes after the Government announced a four-week delay in the final lifting of lockdown restrictions, originally planned for June 21, amid a surge in cases across the country linked to the Delta variant that originated in India.
Speaking at a virtual public Q&A session, Ms Gray advised people to keep taking precautions and regular rapid Covid tests, regardless of whether they or those around them have had a Covid vaccine.
The combination of vaccination, testing and “hands, face, space” behaviours will continue to be needed to reduce both the spread of the virus and the risk of another national lockdown, she said.
One supermarket worker asked why staff should keep social distancing when many customers don’t bother.
Ms Gray replied: “This [the Covid-19 virus] has not gone away.
“Our case rates are rocketing in Bristol. We were up to a rate of 73 [per 100,000 people] again this morning. We have increased 150 per cent in a week.
“We absolutely need to [practise] hands, face space.”
The precautions are still necessary because many people are still not vaccinated and it does not provide full protection, even after two doses, she said.
Regular, rapid testing with lateral flow tests is “hugely” helpful, she added.
Ms Gray said a lot of the cases detected were asymptomatic, especially in young people, but “exemplary” work by schools had contained outbreaks in those facilities.
“In Bristol at the moment, in spite of these rocketing rates, actually we have got less than 100 people in schools – students and staff – who are positive, and those are spread across 25 settings from secondary, primary, early years and FE [further education],” she said.
Asked when life would get back to normal and what the chances of another lockdown were, Ms Gray said those decisions would be taken by central government.
The vaccination roll-out and a Covid booster jab programme planned for Autumn will pave the way for a return to normality.
But citizens need to keep playing their part even after restrictions have lifted, she said.
“Nobody wants to go back into lockdown,” Ms Gray said. “That’s why this four-week delay has been put in place.
“However, we are dealing with something which is very unknown. The virus is adapting and changing all the time and continues to surprise us.
“We’re going to need to get through the next winter and into the next spring before we really know that we’ve stabilised this. It may well be a very difficult winter.
“But if we want to avoid going back into lockdown, we all just have to continue to be cautious and careful, and not throw caution to the wind just because the rules come off.”