Almost 250,000 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, as local public service leaders urge communities to keep preventing the spread of COVID-19.
This week marks the first step along the government roadmap out of lockdown, with infection rates continuing to fall locally.
This includes schools and colleges reopening, people now being able to meet one other person from another household outdoors, as well as care home residents being able to see one regular visitor.
These new rules will remain in force until 29 March 2021, when there is due to be a further loosening of restrictions providing COVID-19 cases continue to fall.
Dr Nicola Smith, clinical chair of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Groups, said:
“Across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes we are making great strides with the roll out of the vaccination programme, to date over 246,000 people in the eligible groups have received their first vaccine.
“We would encourage everyone to come forward for the vaccination when it is their turn. If you are in the eligible groups and haven’t come forward yet, it’s not too late. The vaccines are safe and effective, and could save your life.
“Whilst increasing numbers of our residents have been vaccinated and the roll out continues at pace, it is vital to remember that individual immunity builds over time and is increased by the second vaccination.
“Until the virus is under control, even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow all of the guidance including social distancing, wearing face coverings and hand washing.”
Lateral flow testing sites are available in Bedford, Flitwick, Dunstable, Biggleswade and Luton, and are a key part of the local strategy to keeping communities safe.
Bedfordshire Police continues to run dedicated patrols around coronavirus legislation and takes enforcement action against any breaches of the existing restrictions.
On Saturday, 27 February the force received 103 reports of potential COVID-19 incidents. This was the second highest number of reports in a single day since May, which was only surpassed by reports coming in on New Year’s Eve.
T/Superintendent Graham Bates said:
“I want to thank all of our communities for their continued efforts to stop the spread of this virus. People continue to make huge sacrifices while these restrictions remain in place to keep Bedfordshire safe.
“We have collectively done a fabulous job of following the rules and bringing the rates of infection down, undoubtedly saving many lives in the process.
“But now is not a time for complacency. While the restrictions are being loosened, this is only happening gradually and in a manner which enables us to keep a track on COVID-19.
“People cannot simply return to life as it was before the pandemic. We will get there in time – but it just requires a few more weeks of patience and sticking by the rules to get there.”
In a joint statement the county’s three local authority leaders – Bedford Borough Mayor Dave Hodgson, Luton Council Leader Hazel Simmons MBE and Central Bedfordshire Council Leader Richard Wenham – added:
“Thank you for all your efforts to follow the guidelines to protect your friends, families and communities.
“We are seeing the impact with case rates and deaths dropping. Across Bedfordshire and Luton, we are reminding everyone to continue playing their part.
“Please continue to stay at home as much as possible, only go out for essential purposes, and remember hands, face, space.”