People in Bedford are being urged to remember the hands-face-space-ventilation message as the next stage of lockdown starts.

From today (12 April 2021) non-essential shops, indoor leisure facilities, libraries and personal care services will reopen with restaurants and pubs able to open for outdoor service.

Councillors speaking at a meeting on Thursday (8 April)  warned of a “manic Monday” when people are set to “go berserk” at the lifting of restrictions.

After next Monday, if we are blessed with some decent weather, maybe at the weekend, it’s going to be manic out there,” said Cllr Carl Meader (Lab, Kempston South).

Lots of people are going to be going out.”

And Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle) said: “People are going to go a bit berserk and I understand why but if we get this wrong we could end up with a tier system in September.

People will not want that so let’s try to remind them to get this right and not go overboard or get complacent.”

Ian Brown, Bedford Borough Council’s public health chief officer, said next week will see a “week of action” with COVID marshals and environmental health officers passing on reminders to businesses and the public.

The local outbreak engagement board was told that the success of the vaccination programme is having a big positive impact on local covid data.

In the borough the covid rate has now dropped to 19 per 100,000 population, making it the lowest since the autumn of 2020.

Deaths with covid are now the exception rather than the rule and fewer people are dying from all causes in the town, the meeting heard.

Mr Brown said this drop in excess mortality (the number of people expected to die) had been because some people had been “taken earlier” while fewer people have been dying in road accidents during lockdown, and a feared increase in cancer deaths had not, yet, manifested.

But he believes that the numbers of covid infections WILL inevitably start to rise as people start to mix more again.

This is probably as good as it is going to get,” said Mr Brown.

Members of the public can now access twice weekly rapid tests and Mr Brown urged those without symptoms to take advantage of the new service.

He reminded members of the public to continue to act as if they and the people they meet have the virus.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said residents must remember to observe the rules because “we don’t want to lose all that good work, and to continue to drive down the infection.”

Bedford GP and professor Dr Vijay Nayer reinforced the importance of ventilation and the outdoors by saying people were twenty times less likely to catch the virus outside.