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Warning that Bristol faces ‘challenging winter’ with covid cases soaring

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The people of Bristol should start wearing face masks in public again as health chiefs warn of a ‘very challenging winter ahead’ for covid infections and the city’s hospitals.

A joint statement issued on Thursday morning from the city’s NHS leaders and council chiefs has said that, collectively, everyone in Bristol ‘must take action’ to avoid a killer third wave of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

After the Immensa testing centre scandal which meant hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Bristolians were wrongly told they did not have covid-19 and were allowed to go out into the city and infect more people, Bristol currently has almost double the level of covid infections as the national average, and the Mayor of Bristol and the city’s NHS leaders have issued the statement calling for action.

READ MORE: Bristol coronavirus area-by-area breakdown as over 1,000 new infections recorded in 24 hours

“Our fight against coronavirus has been long, challenging and exhausting for everyone,” the statement, issued by Bristol COVID-19 Local Engagement Board, Health Protection Advisory Group and Bristol City Partners, said.

“We know that everyone has had to make a sacrifice. Now we are seeing lives and livelihoods are being disrupted once again – the virus is thriving as people gather indoors and the cold weather sets in.

“Bristol must prepare for what is likely to be a very challenging winter – for us as individuals and families, but also for our NHS and social care colleagues, our schools, universities and colleges and our local business. Our frontline NHS and health staff are still under considerable pressure, and we ask that you be patient with staff in hospitals, surgeries or care homes, where pressures are resulting in longer waits – they are doing their best in tough circumstances.

“Our businesses and social enterprises are still at risk of closure due to staff shortages. Over the winter, our health and care systems, workers and individuals are likely to be additionally vulnerable to other cold weather pressures such as flu and winter bugs,” the statement added.

The health chiefs said there was good news – around three-quarters of Bristol’s adults have had one or both of the covid vaccine jabs, which has had an effect on the proportion of covid cases that end up with people being admitted to hospital or dying.

“The virus continues to circulate widely in our communities, impacting individuals, families, businesses and some of our most vulnerable communities and, together, we must take action,” said the health chiefs. “We are not in the same place we were last year. Thankfully, due to the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, many more people have a strong layer of protection against becoming severely unwell from the virus,” they added.

But as immunity from the vaccine begins to wear off and infection rates soar to higher levels than at any previous period, the winter ahead looks ‘very challenging’. The case rate for Bristol is currently 764 across the city, but some parts have infection rates of more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.

Currently, an average of 500 people a day are testing positive for Covid in Bristol.

Mayor Marvin Rees joined West of England metro mayor Dan Norris in calling for people to wear masks indoors in public, in crowded spaces and on public transport.

“Our rates in Bristol continue to rise, so it’s really important that we continue to do the most we can to protect one another,” he said. “This means wearing a face covering if you’re indoors, on public transport or in crowded areas, respecting one another’s space, and washing your hands frequently.”

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The health chiefs’ joint statement said wearing a mask in indoor public spaces was one of many actions people should be taking to reduce the number of cases and numbers of people in hospital, and they issued a 12-point plan to get the city through the winter ahead, saying ‘the evidence tells us’:

  • Wearing a face covering reduces the chance of infection.
  • Testing identifies positive cases, and people who are positive and have no symptoms. • Isolation prevents transmission.
  • Fresh air reduces transmission.
  • Vaccination reduces harm and saves lives.

And as a city, with our neighbours and wider partners, Bristol expects and strongly recommends the adoption of these simple precautionary measures to protect us all:

  • If you are unwell, reduce the spread of infection by recovering at home. • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate at home and book a PCR test.
  • Make use of the offer of free lateral flow (rapid) testing – uptake in Bristol has been very high which is really positive.
  • Wear a face covering (unless exempt) – in crowded areas like supermarkets and in shops, on public transport and indoor settings.
  • Respect one another’s space – mild illness for you could be very serious for someone else, so please think of others when you’re out and about.


Mandatory face masks could come back into place
Mandatory face masks could come back into place

  • Meet outdoors where you are able, or if you’re meeting indoors, make sure to open a window or door to let in blasts of fresh air – this is particularly important when you’re meeting or socialising with people or family members who may be more vulnerable to severe illness.
  • If you are invited for your annual flu jab, or you’re contacted about a COVID-19 booster vaccination, do not delay in booking your appointment.
  • Take additional precautions and consider the risks of visiting elderly people or family members in care homes.
  • We expect and recommend people be kind and empathetic towards one another – we are all in this together, and must support one another through what is likely to be another tough winter.

“Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to protect our city,” the joint statement said. “We are kind. We are safe. We are Bristol.”

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