The changes that could come into place from 19 July (following a review of all data and a decision on 12 July), will not come without risk, and I acknowledge that there will be a wide range of responses and reactions throughout our communities.
Running parallel to restrictions coming to an end is the reality that the pandemic is far from over; we are just entering a new phase of how we respond to it.
As with other areas of the country, particularly in the north of England, Barnsley is seeing a steep rise in the number of case rates.
From the beginning of this pandemic, Barnsley has been adversely affected due to its demographics, including an older population and a large number of people who are not able to work from home due to their job roles.
Prior to widespread vaccination, whenever COVID-19 numbers spiked, it impacted on hospitalisations and sadly, deaths, and we cannot completely rule out that happening again, along with increased pressures on our health services.
The key thing protecting us now, beyond the general safe behaviours of hands, face, space, and fresh air is the vaccine.
Getting both doses of the vaccine helps in three ways: protecting us as individuals from infection and severe disease, protecting others by reducing our ability to spread the disease, and reducing the longevity of the pandemic by getting good enough coverage locally to suppress the virus and lessen its ability to further mutate.
Barnsley has always been an ambassador for wearing a face covering – even before they became mandatory in certain settings. In line with the Government’s key health advisors, I would support the recommendation that people who can wear them continue to do so when in enclosed areas where they come into contact with others.
It’s a great way of showing consideration and kindness to others – protecting those around you.
Barnsley is well known for its sense of community spirit, especially in times of adversity and I know that communities will continue to work together to help keep our borough safe, as we get used to living with COVID-19.
Our Public Health team will carry on supporting businesses, schools, and communities to manage outbreaks and provide the most up-to-date advice and guidance, in what is set to be a challenging time.