8 January 2021

New COVID-19 variant is already in West Yorkshire communities and rates are increasing – we must act now

West Yorkshire Prepared, the region’s Local Resilience Forum, met today in light of increasing COVID-19 rates across the region and the presence of the new variant in our communities, and is urging everyone to recognise that time is of the essence in our fight against the pandemic – West Yorkshire must act now to prevent a similar experience to that seen in other parts of the country.

The new COVID-19 variant, which has seen infection rates soar across London and the South East in recent months, is already in our communities and data shows rates are increasing across all districts. If action isn’t taken immediately our region will see a repeat of what is happening in the south.

Robin Tuddenham, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Chief Executive of Calderdale Council, said: “It is a very serious and stark situation. At the moment, we have a very small window of time in which to take action – so it is imperative that we act now. We’re hopeful the national lockdown has been introduced in time but everyone needs to do even more than they did last March, during the first lockdown, if we’re to prevent infection rates spiralling out of control and our hospitals being pushed to the brink.”

The new variant is 70% more infectious than the previous strain, which results in it moving through communities much quicker and with greater ease. In a matter of months, it became the most common form of the virus in parts of England.

Toni Williams, Public Heath Consultant for Public Health England, said: “I have today advised the LRF of the seriousness of the situation in West Yorkshire. The new variant is already present in communities in the region and rates are increasing. Although the number of cases isn’t as high as many parts of the country, data suggests the region could be on the same trajectory for infection rates and hospital admissions if nothing is done. Time is very much of the essence. We must continue to play our part and follow the national lockdown restrictions.”

The National Restrictions, introduced on 5 January, require everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This means:

  • You should work from home if able to do so. If not, you should only travel to your workplace and try to limit the number of extra journeys made.
  • Walk or cycle rather than using public transport if at all possible. If this is not possible, plan ahead and arrange your journeys to travel at quieter times.
  • Only leave your house/garden for essential reasons – food shopping, health, education/childcare (where eligible) or to escape harm or abuse.
  • You can leave your home to exercise but should aim to limit this to once per day, and should not travel outside your local area.

Full details on the restrictions are available at www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Tim Kingsman, co-Chair of West Yorkshire Prepared and Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Despite the National Restrictions being introduced this week, there are still people flouting the rules and leaving their homes for non-essential reasons. Absolutely nobody wants this situation to continue longer than it has to, but that means everyone must pull together.

“West Yorkshire Police will continue to adopt the approach of Encourage, Explain and Engage but we will Enforce where people are flagrantly, blatantly and repeatedly breaking the rules. It is absolutely vital that everyone pulls in the same direction and acts now to prevent the situation worsening further.”

To keep up to date with West Yorkshire Prepared, please visit www.westyorkshireprepared.org.uk or follow us on Facebook (@WYPrepared) or Twitter (@WYRForum).

For reliable, up to date information on COVID-19, please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus or www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.