People in Oxfordshire are being urged to stay at home, avoid mixing with other households, and abide by the lockdown rules to the letter to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the county.
The stark national and local figures mean that things are not going to improve unless people observe the lockdown rules in full.
In the past seven days, the Cherwell district has seen rates at around 1,000 per 100,000 people, which puts it in the top 50 coronavirus hotspots in England. All other parts of Oxfordshire show high rates compared to before Christmas.
Ansaf Azhar, Director for Public Health in Oxfordshire, said: “The prevalence of COVID in Oxfordshire is higher than it has ever been. We are in a worse position than at the height of the first wave last spring, and the situation is continuing to deteriorate.
"In some parts of the county, such as the Hardwick and Ruscote areas of Banbury, we are seeing rates significantly higher than the Cherwell average.
“We are aware that people are fed up and want an end to all of this, but this is an exceptionally serious situation – we are in the eye of the storm. The vaccine will not start to have an influence for some weeks and so the only weapon we have against this virus is to stay at home and avoid mixing with people outside of our households. We are dealing with a new variant that is extremely infectious and therefore need to be even more careful than last spring.
“COVID-19 loves crowds. Only go shopping when it is essential, shop alone and shop local, keep two metres apart from others and remember that outdoor exercise is only allowed once per day. Being out and about presents a real risk, so limit the time you are out of the house and take every precaution. One in three people with COVID don’t know they have it so act like you’ve got it to reduce the spread. We need people to hear that message loud and clear.
“I know this is all familiar from the first lockdown last spring, but the strict observation of the rules last March and April helped drive down cases. We need to remember that and do the same now.
“We are relying on the people of Oxfordshire as individuals, families and work colleagues to regain control of this virus by doing what is needed. I would plead with every individual in the county to look deep inside themselves and honestly ask if they are abiding by the rules.
“Hospitalisations and deaths from the virus are continuing to rise rapidly and we are now seeing more younger people admitted to hospital. Please do everything you can to stop the spread. The power to fight back against COVID remains in our own hands.”
Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, said: “The past year has been difficult for everyone. We are all tired and frustrated about the ongoing restrictions. However, the situation in Cherwell is critical.
"Approximately one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising. It is more important than ever that we follow the rules and stay at home. We all have a part to play in bringing infection rates down in Cherwell and beyond and can do that by washing our hands regularly, using face coverings and making space."
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