Growing number of South Shields residents call for return of some Covid restrictions as case rates rocket
A growing number of South Shields residents feel now is the time for the Government to implement its Winter Plan B as case rates continue to surge across the area.
The move would see masks once again become mandatory in certain public settings, Covid passports introduced for social activities and a return to a work from home directive.
In recent days the Government has come under increasing pressure to reinstate some Covid restrictions as case rates have soared to more than 40,000 a day, including 52,009 cases on Thursday, October 21, the highest in three months following restrictions coming to an end in England.
South Tyneside currently has a case rate of 422.8 per 100,000 people compared to less than 300 at the start of the month.
With one of the highest case rates in Europe, The British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of being "wilfully negligent" for not reimposing rules such as mandatory face masks and across the weekend the Labour Party called for the implementation of Plan B.
It’s a sentiment shared by retail worker, Jane Grey, 52, who knows from firsthand experience the dangers Covid can pose, even after vaccination.
She said: “I’ve just finished my isolation after having Covid. A lot of people think it’s just like a bad cold but I’ve been double jabbed and still got it. I was really sick – at one point I was coughing up blood. I think measures like mask wearing should be reintroduced to help get cases down.
"If my mother had got it like I did then I think it would have killed her.
"However, people have now had that taste of freedom and so I’m not sure how many will follow any new rules which are brought in.”
Former shipyard worker David Richardson, 74, had to shield during lockdown and, despite having had his vaccinations, is becoming “increasingly wary” of venturing into busy public areas.
He said: “I don’t want to go back into a full lockdown but I think it’s time some measures such as mask wearing are brought back. Case rates are far too high.
"I think a lot of people would be against it but I’ve always continued to wear my mask in public.”
One resident who knows better than most the impact of the virus is North East Ambulance Service paramedic Phil Watson.
Phil, 64, said: “If we don’t take some sort of action now then we may need to take more severe measures later in the run up to Christmas. I think people would be even more annoyed if it was brought in then.”
Retired couple, Owen and Valerie Duffy believe the time has arrived for some restrictions but are sceptical as to whether people would adhere to them.
Owen, 78, a former Civil Engineer, said: “I do think mandatory mask wearing should be brought in for inside shops and public transport. I think wearing masks should have been kept in the first place.
"On buses and in public spaces some people wear them but I would say at least 60% don’t.
"I also agree with the directive to work from home being reintroduced but this is obviously not possible for everyone.”
Valarie, 69, a former occupational therapist, added: “We all need to do our bit.
"I do worry that by not taking action now that we will end up back in lockdown over Christmas.”
While older generations are at greater risk from Covid it’s not just this demographic who feels the Government need to reintroduce some of the restrictions in Plan B.
New RAF recruit Sam Cryer, 28, said: “It’s very much a balancing act and once the R number is above 1 and infections are increasing – which I believe it currently is – then measures such as mask wearing need to be brought in to get infection rates down.
"I’ve a friend who works in the NHS on the front-line and I’ve heard just how difficult it has been and so anything we can do to support people like him and keep infections under control we should do.
"I think every lockdown we’ve gone into we’ve done so late and I don’t think we’ve taken of advantage of being an island – like Australia and New Zealand – to control the pandemic.”
However, not everyone who spoke to the Gazette agreed with calls for the implementation of Plan B.
Desmond Metcalf, 62, who works for Screwfix, said: “The virus is here to stay and it’s about time we got back to normal. Very few people coming into the shop are now wearing masks. We need to start accepting Covid in the same way we accept flu.
"I think if restrictions were brought in then some people would follow them but others wouldn’t. I just think people are at the point where they’re fed up with Covid and restrictions and want their lives back.”
Pat Metcalf, 61, a Supervising Assistant at a local school, added: “I think wearing a mask should now be down to personal preference.”
University of Sunderland students Ellie Swinbanks and Amelie Whitfield, both 20, don’t want to see the return of restrictions and are fearful it could pave the way to further lockdowns.
Primary Education student Ellie said: “Our course has been so badly disrupted by lockdowns and I really hope we don’t have to bring back restrictions again. I don’t wear a mask at the moment but if it became mandatory then I would do so.”
Amelie, who is also training to be a teacher, added: “I think if some of these restrictions were reversed it would be difficult to accept and I do think a lot of people would ignore it.
"I’ve not had my Covid vaccination as I’m worried about getting a bad reaction. I don’t agree with the idea of a Covid passport to get in places. You don’t have to show proof of other vaccinations.”