Coronavirus: Portsmouth council leader blasts government for 'not going far' enough with new restrictions - with the public becoming 'complacent'

THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has warned a second wave of Covid-19 infections will bring ‘more hospitalisations and more deaths’ than the first outbreak unless the government enacts tougher restrictions.

It comes as earlier today prime minister Boris Johnson announced that office workers will be encouraged to work from home where possible, pubs and bars must close by 10pm, and there will be no return of spectators to major sporting events.

Eight new cases of Covid-19 in Portsmouth were confirmed yesterday – and the government’s new restrictions will not do enough to stop a more deadly second wave of infections, according to Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

Cllr Jackson said: ‘I don’t think they are going far enough.

Shoppers wearing masks in Commercial Road in Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (150620-4122)

‘The work the government has asked the council to do in terms of preparing for a worst case scenario would see more and more hospitalisations and deaths than in the first wave.

‘There is no justification for a local lockdown, but there are justifications for the government to do more stuff nationally so we don’t have local outbreaks.

‘There is an argument for bringing back particular protections for people who are shielding.

‘I think there is an argument for restricting the number of visitors in homes – that is is very tough on families, we know.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has said the government's restrictions do not go far enough in tackling Covid-19. Picture: Sarah Standing (191119-2516)

‘It’s tricky, and no-one wants to be in this situation – but it needs firm leadership.’

The council leader also warned that residents were becoming ‘complacent’, as last night saw a party with more than 40 people in attendance become the latest mass gathering shut down by Portsmouth police.

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Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘I absolutely do think people are becoming complacent. This is life and death stuff.’

Nationally, the R rate – the measurement of people infection from one virus carrier – has gone up to between 1.1 and 1.4, with government scientists warning this could lead to 50,000 infections a day by November.

The increase showed the battle against the outbreak had gone ‘significantly wrong’, according to Roger Batterbury, chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth.

He said: ‘So long as people follow the law, the guidance and the rules I think the city should come though this safely with a lower R rate than some of our neighbours and clearly some other areas of our nation that are currently suffering with very severe lockdowns. I have faith the people of the city will listen to the rules and follow them as we have been since back in March.

'We know the numbers are going up across the country and in the city and it's dreadful when we have been very low for a long time.

'Clearly with the R rate going up and infections going up something somewhere has gone significantly wrong. We would support the restrictions that have been introduced today.

'The city has done incredibly well in keeping the numbers down this whole time.

'Let us hope people listen to what's been said and follow the guidance. We all want to see the city come through this unscathed.'

Dominique Le Touze, one of the city council’s public health consultants, said: ‘These new rules have been brought in to reduce the rising rate of coronavirus infections. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to return to full lockdown restrictions, which were challenging for so many. I know that some of these rules will be frustrating for certain businesses and individuals but they're important to protect people and the NHS.

‘The increasing fines for failing to wear a face covering, unless you have a valid reason not to like a medical condition or disability, shows how important this measure is along with washing your hands and keeping your distance from others in reducing the spread of infection. It remains critical that people follow these steps as well as self-isolating if they experience any coronavirus symptoms and booking a test.’

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