As Covid rises we need local advice and an example from MPs

Ipswich Town Centre shoppers wearing masks

A year ago most people were wearing masks when out shopping. The time has come for the masks to return - especially when shoppers are indoors. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The news that Ipswich had the highest number of Covid infections per head of population earlier this week is very worrying for those of us who live in and near the town - but does need to be seen in some sort of context.

And while the high infection rate should be a wake-up call to many people, the fact is that a very high proportion of those infected are children who have picked it up at school and they less likely to end up seriously ill (although they can still suffer from long Covid).

The hospitals in the area have not yet been put under intolerable strain, although the number of cases is rising slightly, but the time has come when far more people really should be taking the disease seriously again.

And the government does need to listen to the medical experts who say introducing Plan B restrictions, including mandatory face coverings in crowded indoor setting, must be implemented now.

At the moment experts say there is no need for another lockdown - but there is a need for far more people to be taking the disease seriously - and if people won't take it seriously there is a need for the government to take action to force them to do that.

I fear the government will do what it has in the past - prevaricate and make complacent noises before it follows the science three weeks after it should!

If you're visiting a shop, you really should be wearing a mask. If you're going to the cinema, the theatre, or using public transport you should be wearing a mask.

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But actually is it any wonder that the public isn't listening to the advice on wearing masks when it is ignored by the Tory MPs who crowd into the House of Commons (is there a more crowded workplace in the country?)

Frankly, if Messrs Johnson, Javid, Sunak et al aren't prepared to follow the advice they and their officials are putting out to the rest of the country, is it any wonder that it's being ignored by millions in supermarkets and pubs?

Unmasked MPs in Commons

Where are the masks? Few MPs had their faces covered in the crowded House of Commons for Monday's tributes to Sir David Amess. - Credit: PA

Remember masks only offer marginal protection for the wearer - but offer much greater protection for those near the wearer. Failing to wear a mask in an enclosed area with many other people around is an act of supreme selfishness!

Having said that, there has to be a level of common sense and judgement. In the last few days I've been to the cinema on a weekday afternoon where the screen was empty except for me and a family member and two other people sat on the opposite side of the auditorium. I took my mask off there - as I did on a train to Norwich when the only other person in the carriage was some distance away.

The problem is some people seem unable to use that simple common sense and judgement. I've seen maskless people in supermarkets jostling others to get to whatever they want.

People do need to remember that Covid hasn't gone away. It isn't just children that have it. 

And this is where the public health authorities really do need to step up to the plate and give rather more guidance than the very generalised comments we have had over the last 18 months.

I know the authorities in Suffolk are following the national lead and until the last few weeks the case numbers in Suffolk have generally been below the national average - at one stage national TV cameras were heading to Ipswich because it had one of the lowest rates in the country.

Now the tables are turned significantly it would be really good to hear more specific advice and exhortation/reassurance about the specific area rather than what sometimes looks like a rehash of national advice that could apply to anywhere.

The attitude to Covid now varies from "yippee, everything's open. Let's get back to normal," to "We're all doomed, everyone should self-isolate until the spring,"  with all shades of grey between them.

I felt quite safe going to a curry house for a meal with a couple of friends but I know someone else who felt rather apprehensive after making her first visit to the theatre in 10 months the other week.

It would be really helpful to have some really clear advice about what is and is not safe for different groups of the population in this part of the world - yet too much of what we hear is a generalised repeat of what is coming from national experts. 

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