Andy Fox, Lincolnshire County Council’s director of public health, said he understood people were “fed up” after more than a year of lockdown and delays to freedom, but said this time it was different – allowing more time for vaccinations, rather than just supressing case numbers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that there would be a four week delay in the final stage of lifting restrictions until July 19 in order to get more people vaccinated and slow down or stop any rise in hospitalisations.
Despite seeing an increase in COVID-19 rates, Lincolnshire remains “still far lower” than other areas of the country with an infection rate of 28.5 per 100,000 population, compared to the England average of 67.1.
Mr Fox said: “It is the right thing to do to delay further loosening of restrictions for a few weeks at this point in order to get more vaccinations, in people’s arms.
“Unfortunately we have seen a sharp rise in cases in some areas of the country associated with this delta area and we do need to react to that.
“It wouldn’t be wise to continue with the relaxation. Hopefully this pause will give us additional time to increase uptake of vaccination especially in some of the younger age ranges, and that will mean that the peak of any wave that is coming will be lower and lives will be saved.”
He said the county had not yet seen a sharp rise, but added that once figures start going up they have had a historic tendency to then accelerate.
On Friday, Lincolnshire celebrated having given out its 500,000th first dose, meaning more than 80% of the county has now been jabbed at least once.
This morning 23-24 year olds are being invited to take up their vaccinations, while the second doses for the Over 40s are also being brought forward.
Mr Fox said that with all the good news, he understood why people might be “fed up” of the delays. In response to the announcement on Monday #ImDone and #EnoughIsEnough were trending on Twitter and anti-COVID sentiment has increased in response to news stories.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly hard for everybody, and it’s been a massive impact upon all our lives so I completely understand that people want to be done with it. We’ve all echoed that sentiment, we absolutely want this to be over, but it’s very clear that the disease is not going to go away overnight.”
Without the measures he said there would be “far more hospitalisations”.
“It is a stark choice, it’s one the government has really wrestled with. Nobody wants to be in these restrictions at all, unfortunately the alternative is even worse.”
He praised the work residents had done so far, and urged people to continue to take-up the vaccine.
Not doing so, he said would only jeopardise further restriction relaxations.
Derek Ward, Director of Public Health, added: “Of course, the balance with supporting businesses by opening up the economy is a difficult one and many people will be disappointed but we don’t want to open up and then have to go into reverse and shut things down again.
“A clear benefit of the vaccine programme is that although infection rates are rising due to people mixing together more freely and the Delta variant taking hold, hospitalisations and deaths remain low.
“Vaccines work and give you protection against illness from Covid-19 as well as protecting others around you. But no vaccine offers 100% protection so please remember the basics – hands, face, space and fresh air are still our first line of defence in the battle against Covid-19.”