COVID-19: Ad campaign launched with plea to public as fears grow over lockdown compliance

Saturday 9th January 2021 08:15 GMT

It comes amid growing fears that people have not been observing social distancing rules, as case numbers surge, hospitals become swamped and deaths continue to rise.

On Friday, a record 68,053 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK and one in 50 people in England are now thought to have coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The government's advertising campaign is running across TV, radio, newspapers and on social media.

The TV advert is fronted by England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty who says: "COVID-19, especially the new variant, is spreading quickly across the country. This puts many people at risk of serious disease and is placing a lot of pressure on our NHS.

"Once more, we must all stay at home. If it's essential to go out, remember: wash your hands, cover your face indoors and keep your distance from others.

"Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all stay home, protect the NHS and save lives."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson adds that infection rates are soaring at an "alarming rate" and "our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic".

"The vaccine has given us renewed hope in our fight against the virus but we must not be complacent," he says.

On 1 September, there were fewer than 500 people with COVID-19 in hospital, the government said.

This had soared to about 9,000 by 1 November, and on Christmas Day it had reached 17,701 - just below last spring's peak.

On 7 January, that number had rocketed to almost 30,000.

Meanwhile, data suggests compliance with the current lockdown is less than in the spring.

Transport app Citymapper tracks how many people plan journeys by walking, cycling, or taking a taxi in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

According to data from the app, during the first lockdown, mobility fell to less than 10% of pre-pandemic levels. And in April, public transport use in London fell below 10%.

But this time around mobility has fallen by less to just under 20%. As of Friday, in London tube use was down to 18% and bus use was at 30%, according to Transport for London.

Frontline workers have joined the government in asking people to stay at home to contain the coronavirus and take pressure off services.

Dr Katie Sanderson has been treating COVID-19 patients in London and says people must follow the rules.

She told Sky News: "I think it's really important people know what's happening in their local hospitals.

"I think seeing inside intensive care units, inside hospitals is helpful for people to understand just how sick these patients are."

The commissioner of the London Fire Brigade Andy Roe has also urged the public to "think about yourselves, think about your neighbours, think about your families and do your absolute best to minimise the spread".

So far, 185 firefighters have stepped in to drive ambulances to help the response to the virus in London.

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On Friday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a state of emergency due to rising cases threatening to overrun the capital's already stretched hospitals.

Mr Roe said: "It was something we were probably expecting, we had seen the pressure mount on our colleagues in the National Health Service.

"The London Fire Brigade has been here for 150 years serving and protecting London, and we will see it through during the pandemic."

Since March firefighters in London have delivered 21 million items of PPE and co-ordinated delivery of food parcels and medicines to the most vulnerable.

"What I've seen this year is the absolute best of the London Fire Brigade and the men and women who serve with it," Mr Roe said.

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