‘Prepare for a digital Christmas’ says councillor as virus creeps into most parts of Bedford borough

A leading Bedford councillor has advised residents to prepare for a ‘digital Christmas’ as the virus shows signs that it is invading more vulnerable parts of the borough.
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Bedford Borough Council’s local outbreak engagement board heard that in the week from October 12 to 18 some 149 cases were found giving the borough an infection rate of 86 per 100,000.

Ian Brown, the chief officer for public health, said 46 cases were related to 21 household clusters with worrying signs that the coronavirus has now broken into sheltered accommodation and retirement villages, with those settings recording four cases.

“We are now seeing a percolation of cases into that older age group, who are more at risk and more likely to end up in hospital, unfortunately,” he said.

Figures show there were no virus related deaths in the reporting period to add to the grim toll of 181 known Bedford borough lives lost since the start of the pandemic.

Cllr Christine McHugh (Lib Dem, Goldington) is her party’s group leader and the council’s portfolio holder for social care resilience.

She said she was pleased that the Scottish government has been talking of a “digital Christmas’.

“We know that flu cases and deaths shoot up after Christmas.

Cllr Christine McHughCllr Christine McHugh
Cllr Christine McHugh

“Christmas is a great transmission opportunity for disease and I think the sooner that – without wanting to be a Scrooge or a Grinch – we think actually that we’ll just have to have a quiet and a virtual and a digital Christmas the better because we will still have to be keeping a lid on things.”

The council has already advised residents on how to have a safe Halloween, and is expected to give more ideas for Guy Fawkes Night.

Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur), the portfolio holder for health and wellbeing advised people to have a socially distanced Halloween, saying: “I don’t want to suck the fun out of everything like a vampire.”

But she added that “we now have cases in all of our wards” and that it could get a lot worse if we “do not do our bit” by following the guidance.

Figures presented to yesterday’s meeting show that both urban and rural areas have seen cases, and that more than nine per cent of people tested are positive.

Bedford is currently in the “medium” and lowest tier of the Government’s three level approach to restrictions.

Conservative group leader Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead) was pleased that his ward was not among the 24 out of 27 wards to show at least three cases.

But he said that in his area “Halloween is a pretty wild thing” and he welcomed the council giving advice on people finding alternatives to knocking on other people’s doors.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said it was important for the borough to avoid a “Liverpool-style lockdown” and the damage that could do to the local economy.

“We need to follow the hands, face and space advice for the sake of our families, our friends and our community,” he said, adding “have a safe Halloween.”