Message from Cllr Sir Steve Houghton CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council and Chair of the Barnsley Outbreak Control Engagement Board

Following the meeting of our Outbreak Control Engagement Board today and ahead of Barnsley’s upcoming Play-Off match next week, I’ve got a variation on a well-known quote for you: “They think it’s all over…well it’s not quite, yet.”

That’s why we have to take a cautious approach to the new freedoms we are looking forward to from next Monday 17 May.

As you’ll be well aware, we’ve had enduring high rates in our borough since the beginning of the pandemic and are currently stuck at between 50 and 60 cases per 100,000.  This makes us the highest in the region, and quite frequently, the country.

I want to be open with you, and let you know that following Step Three, we are extremely likely to see rates rising again in Barnsley – and because we have a high baseline, this is more of a problem here than in most other places in the country.

While we are already seeing reduced deaths and fewer hospitalisations thanks to the vaccine roll-out, and that will continue to improve as more of us are vaccinated, high case rates will still cause disruption through outbreaks in school or workplaces – which could lead to closed bubbles, absences, and even complete shutdowns.

Sadly, some people who are not yet vaccinated could still get ill and even die – and every single death is an avoidable tragedy.

So please – continue to go that extra mile when it comes to protecting yourselves, the ones you love, and our wider communities.

Enjoy new freedoms but enjoy them carefully.

We should still try to follow social distancing with people from outside our own household, but if we choose to have close contact with family or friends there are ways to minimise any risk including keeping interactions brief, and being careful about the number of different people you meet up with during a day or week.

It’s also a good idea to meet up with other people outside rather than inside whenever possible. There is no doubt it is much less risky for transmission and we have less room for manoeuvre figures-wise in Barnsley. If you are indoors always have windows and doors open to let fresh air circulate. 

Please never go out if you have symptoms - always isolate and get a test. Check that anyone you’re planning to meet doesn’t have symptoms and if they do encourage them to get a test.  Be ever more stringent about face coverings, social distancing, and washing hands at least until we have more of our adult population vaccinated - and get your vaccine as soon as you are invited.

We have a robust Outbreak Control Plan in place for Barnsley and continue to work with health partners, businesses, and schools to manage transmission as much as we can, but we all have individual responsibilities as Barnsley residents, to play our part and come out of this stronger. Please continue to do the right thing. 

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