We have had rising numbers of COVID-19 infections and predicted deaths. As of Thursday (5 November), our infection rate in Bristol was 382.4 cases per 100,000 people. That puts us above the England average of 231 cases per 100,000. Just in our own region, North Somerset is on 179, South Gloucestershire is on 278 and B&NES is on 236. It gives us a regional R number for the south west somewhere within the range of 1.2 and 1.5 and we’re going to get more information on COVID this evening. The one of the triggers for this lockdown has been the pressure on the National Health Service. Our hospital admissions for COVID-19 are increasing, putting our services under increasing pressure, as you would expect. There are a number of additional measures being put in place, a wraparound support service for care homes, a telephone service to help reduce hospital admissions as well. We are supporting the fastest safer discharge from our hospitals for people to go back into community care. And of course, we have the NHS Nightingale hospital in Bristol, with 301 ventilated beds for critically-ill COVID patients – and those will open if the ICU capacity within the city is overwhelmed.
We do understand that some of the rules and guidelines are confusing, so it’s important that you understand the principles of transmission. If you know these, you’ll be able to manage your behaviour to keep you safe and keep people safe around you. It spreads through aerosols and droplets. So bear that in mind. Stay at home, except for a very limited number of reasons. Remember – hands, face and space. Stick to your household or your support bubble indoors and for outdoor exercise visit stick to your household, support bubble or one person from another household. If you develop symptoms, get tested. If you’re told to isolate or if you know you should, because you’ve come into contact with an infected person, then you must. This includes children sent home from school – they must isolate at home. If you are facing difficulties, if you need food, medical supplies, any support, you can call the #WeAreBristol helpline on 0800 694 0184. We know mental health is going to be an issue through lockdown as well. There is mental health support available, 24 hours a day seven days a week, 0800 0126 549.
Lockdown means some changes to council services. So all Bristol libraries closed yesterday – from Thursday that is – and they will be closed until further notice. There are no Call and Collect services. Loans are extended to mid-December and there will be no charges or fines for that. All sports facilities are closed. Park toilets, play areas, multi-use games areas, outdoor gyms, wheels parks remain open. Takeaways from parks are the only service available from the cafes and concessions. Our recycling centres remain open but they are still subject to the COVID secure measures.
From today, a group of COVID marshals are going to be working across the city, particularly in the busy areas. There will be a minimum of 16 marshals in Bristol in the coming weeks and they are going to be there to help explain government guidance and manage shop and supermarket queues so everyone can safely distance. They’re going to be reminding people to wear a face covering where required. They will be handing out free face coverings and hand sanitiser to those who need it. Can I just say when you do get a free face covering, make sure you dispose of it in a responsible way. We see too many of them left on the pavements and in the roads, littering, We don’t need that. The marshals will also be there to help open businesses to be safe and COVID secure as well and they will also be cleaning frequently touched services. The marshals do not have enforcement powers and they cannot issue fines, but they will work closely with the police and report breaches. Can we just ask you as well to please be kind, be gracious to the marshals and all of our key workers at this time? They are doing their best in a very difficult situation and they are there to help keep us safe and keep you safe and keep other people safe around you.
It’s Remembrance Sunday this Sunday (8 November). Unfortunately, there will be no traditional parade or service at the Cenotaph due to restrictions. That’s a decision made with the Armed Services themselves. So please do not come to the city centre. Can we ask you to instead pay your respects safely and remember those who have sacrificed their lives for us from your homes. You can observe the National Two Minute Silence from your garden or outside your house. You can include readings, music, or other elements to make the ceremony or event relevant to your household. You can also follow a service on the council’s social media and website and you could display a poppy poster in your window. We’ll be sharing an Act of Remembrance service available just before 11am on Sunday. For that you can see our city council social media pages and our website for more information.