Covid infections have risen in Bedford prompting new advice for limits on family gatherings

Public health officials have issued new advice on family gatherings in Bedford following an increase in covid-19 infections.
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With the publication of a deep dive report into the situation in the town delayed until next week (Aug 3) officials say 12 recent cases have come from five possible clusters in households.

Ian Brown, Bedford Borough Council’s public health chief says gatherings should be limited to two households.

And he told a meeting on Thursday that family gatherings should be held “outdoors if you are able to do so”.

“If you meet with more than two households then this MUST be outdoors and can be a limit of six people only,” he told the local outbreak engagement board.

Mr Brown also said that the weekly incidence rate for the disease has been rising since early July to a rate of four cases each day.

Recent infections have been seen in both rural and urban areas, with the highest rates at Queens Park (five cases), Kingsbrook (four cases), Goldington (three cases), and Kempston West (four cases).

The message from the meeting was that although the number of covid-19 patients at Bedford Hospital has fallen to just six, officials see no room for complacency.

Cllr Louise JacksonCllr Louise Jackson
Cllr Louise Jackson

The borough’s infection rate of 15.7 per 100,000 people sits as third worst in the East of England region, the meeting heard.

Board members once more emphasised the importance of staying at home where possible, social distancing, regular hand washing and the use of face coverings in shops, supermarkets, on public transport and anywhere where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing.

Officials will be talking to people of all languages and faiths to make sure they understand what to do if they spot the symptoms and will give advice on isolation and testing.

The meeting also heard concerns about events being organised in the borough.

Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur) the council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, said: “We don’t want to be in the same situation as Luton or Leicester. This is not the time for big events.”

When asked what his view was on whether people were sticking to the rules, Mr Brown said that compliance is “really good”.

“I am proud of the people of the borough,” he said.

But Cllr Wendy Rider (Lib Dem, Brickhill), the council’s portfolio holder for adult services, said some young people were not abiding by the guidelines.

“Their attitude is that they can’t get it, even though they can pass it on.

“And they won’t wear a mask because they think they are safe.”

Senior public health officer Vicky Head said the council is preparing to compliment the national contact tracing network by concentrating on finding those people who have been unable to reach.

The council now has access to details of patients who have contracted the disease, she said.