THE Prime Minister has announced that almost all Covid controls currently in place in Step Three of the lockdown will now be lifted as we go into the final Step Four of the roadmap on Monday.

He has stressed however that we are not at the end of the pandemic, and that whilst we are lifting most of the regulations and entering a new phase of freedoms - ‘continued caution’ is still required.

The government will therefore ‘expect and recommend’ that face masks will continue to be worn by the public in enclosed public space, some version of Covid passports may be introduced and the full return to workplaces for those currently working at home should be gradual over the coming months.

This final stage of lockdown lifting has been triggered against what some epidemiologists are describing as an ‘explosion of cases’, with the Delta variant wave now travelling east and south across England from its early first appearance in April in the Northwest of England.

With the link between cases and hospital admissions now severely weakened (but not broken), the lower summer transmission risk, and the end of the school term due, it is easy to understand why the decision was taken. However, with evidence of a further very high national ‘Delta Wave’ rising, it is less easy to understand why the government has abandoned legal requirements for people to wear face masks in enclosed public space. Face mask wearing will significantly reduce the risk of transmission of Covid in enclosed public space but would not stop the freedoms people can now enjoy.

Blackburn with Darwen case rates are continuing to fall more or less consistently-with a rate on Wednesday July 14 of 374.4 per 100,000. This is a testimony to the hard work and skill of everyone across the borough over the weeks since our first identified Delta variant case on April 7. Other local authorities across Lancashire and the UK will have some further ground to travel before they will see a plateauing and fall in cases- but they will. Just how high the case rates may rise however is difficult to predict at this time. It is possible that this Delta wave may have a more sustained and severe impact in local authority areas less affected by previous Covid waves.

On Friday July 9, Blackburn with Darwen had 27 of its residents in hospital with a Covid diagnoses of whom 15 were not vaccinated – although the majority could have been. As of Monday July 12 that had fallen to 19 patients but the ratio of vaccinated to non-vaccinated had grown with 13 of the 19 having had no vaccination, although the majority could and should have been.

Vaccination will always remain a personal choice but choosing to remain unvaccinated places an added risk to you, your family, and the NHS.

The most important things we can all do now is to continue to wear facemasks in enclosed public space, wash hands often, ventilate rooms, maintain some social distance (where possible) and get vaccinated if you are eligible.

The virus is still with us. We now just need to take sensible precautions -and enjoy the new freedoms safely!