East Devon leader speaks out against easing of coronavirus restrictions on July 19

  Posted: 14.07.21 at 12:43 by Local Democracy Reporter Joe Ives

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The leader of East Devon District Council has said the planned easing of final coronavirus restrictions on July 19 will be “an unwelcome infection accelerator”.

Cllr Paul Arnott, who represents Colyton as an Independent East Devon Alliance member, has spoke out against the government’s plans for the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, which will see wearing face masks become optional and social distancing rules scrapped.

He said: “July 19 is destined to be an unwelcome infection accelerator unless people have the good sense and consideration for others to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing, as at present.

“In my view, with so many local people still at only a single jab [stage], this has come two months too soon and looks like a bid for ‘herd-immunity.’

“I suspect Devonians have more common sense than this and will continue to lead productive lives while continuing to exercise great caution.”

Steve Brown, director of Public Health Devon, has also urged the public to remain cautious.

He said: “We’re moving to a new chapter in the management of the pandemic, where we are no longer instructed by regulation to follow rules, and instead we are encouraged to be personally responsible for our own actions.

“There’s no question about us sitting back and doing nothing. We need to take personal responsibility, remain cautious, and continue with the efforts we have made so far in helping to stop the spread.

“Personal responsibility is about doing the right thing. It’s about respecting others around us, and behaving in ways that protect them and ourselves from the risk of coronavirus.”

However, East Devon MP Simon Jupp has backed the government’s plans to go ahead with the full easing of COVID restrictions, despite rising numbers of cases in the constituency.

In the seven days up until July 7, cases in East Devon rose by 64 per cent, climbing from 108 to 277. There are now more than 189 cases per 100,000 of the population.

Mr Jupp said: “Cases here are still lower than the average for the UK. I don’t see any reason not to open up, as long as people follow personal and social responsibility and look after themselves. 

“That involves getting the vaccine when it’s their turn, including the second dose and, also, if they choose to, wearing face coverings if applicable.

“That’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be taking it on a step-by -step, case-by-case basis to decide whether I want to wear a face mask in a certain scenario.

“I think moving from mandated state intervention to a more personal responsibility – it’s your choice but you’ve got to be mindful of those around you – is exactly the right way to go.

“I’m happy for the unlocking to take place next week. I don’t think we can call it ‘Freedom Day’, I don’t think that’s helpful as a narrative, but I do think that overall it’s a good thing for our area.

“At some point, we have to open up. At some point, we have to have some semblance of normality.”

Mr Jupp praised the vaccine rollout locally and nationally and emphasised the importance of opening up fully for the economy.

He said: “We could be cautious forever about new variants that come forward and I don’t think our economy could stand it.”

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