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As coronavirus infection rates climb city- and country-wide, the message from local health bosses is clear – stay home to save lives.

Portsmouth is now seeing a 20-30% increase in positive coronavirus cases week-on-week, with infections rates rising across all age groups in all parts of the city. The last 7 days has seen a further 1,229 new cases, bringing the total number of people in Portsmouth to have had the virus to 8,113. The virus is currently infecting 571 people per 100,000 of the population in Portsmouth, a figure which has almost doubled since 1 December.

The Queen Alexandra hospital is under significant pressure, currently caring for 460 covid patients – with a 69% increase in new admissions and diagnoses the last 7 days. Staying at home, will help reduce the spread of infection, protect the NHS and save lives.

The national lockdown rules mean residents must stay home as much as they can. This includes working from home unless this is not possible, only leaving home to get essential provisions for themselves or someone who is vulnerable and only going outside for one daily session of exercise.

As has been the case under previous restrictions, people must stay local – people should try to stay in their local area for essential shopping or exercise, but may travel a short distance to reach an open space.

An essential part of limiting the spread of this new variant strain of the virus that can be transmitted more easily, is limiting contact with others. People must not socialise indoors or outdoors with those they do not live with or who are not in their support bubble – though they can meet one other person outside during daily exercise, keeping a social distance of 2 metres apart.

Schools are only open for children of critical workers and for vulnerable children until February half term. All other pupils will have access to home online education, and guidance for parents and carers can be found at gov.uk/coronavirus/education-and-childcare

Helen Atkinson, Director of Public Health at Portsmouth City Council says: “The new variant of coronavirus has a higher transmission rate and we also know that one in three people with the virus have no symptoms, making it possible to infect others without realising. Now is the time for us all to stay at home, and do our bit to help slow the spread, protect our vital NHS services and save lives. Your actions over the coming weeks can and will make a difference.

“We must limit the number of times we go out for essential shopping, stay local where possible, reduce the number of journeys we take and limit the people we come into contact with. The council is working hard to ensure local shops are risk assessing and adhering to social distancing and hygiene measures to keep customers and their critical workers safe, but we must all wear our face coverings and might have to queue and wait our turn. Remembering ‘Hands. Face. Space.’ at all times is crucial to slow the rate of infection.”

Recognising that this new lockdown comes after a difficult year for individuals, families and businesses, the council is keen to reassure local communities that they and their partners are working hard to support those most in need.

Cllr Gerald Vernon Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council says: “We’re in a very different position than we were in March last year – council, health and voluntary services are set up to be delivered remotely, and our staff and partners are on hand to help those most in need. The vast majority of council services will continue to operate, though some may do so in different ways to keep people safe.

“No matter what you’re facing, don’t struggle alone – there are people here to help. The end is in sight – we all need to pull together over the next weeks and months until the vaccination programme is more widely rolled-out and our most vulnerable friends and family members are protected. Then we will begin to get our lives slowly back to some sort of normal.”

Portsmouth City Council is currently reviewing and refreshing risk assessments for service delivery, and aims to continue providing most services during this third national lockdown, though some services (like museums) are required to close by law. Updates can be found online at www.portsmouth.gov.uk/coronavirus

Support is available for those that need it, particularly those facing financial hardship or those classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ who might face difficulties in isolation. Visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/coronavirus or use the HIVE Portsmouth directory of services available at www.hiveportsmouth.org.uk/hive-directory to find out what help is available. People who do not have access to the internet can call 023 9261 6708, from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

Business affected by the lockdown should visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/business-support to find out what support is available, or can call the council’s dedicated business support line on 023 9284 1641, Monday to Friday.

Remember ‘Hands. Face. Space.’

  • Hands – wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds
  • Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
  • Space – stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings)

Other reasons you may leave your home

You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:

  • Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home, including but not limited to people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance
  • Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services.
  • Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating.
  • Education and childcare – You can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend. Access to education and children’s activities for school-aged pupils is restricted. See further information on education and childcare. People can continue existing arrangements for contact between parents and children where they live apart. This includes childcare bubbles.
  • Meeting others and care – You can leave home to visit people in your support bubble( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work, and not to enable social contact between adults), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, to attend a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child.
  • Exercise – You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area. You should maintain social distancing. See exercising and meeting other people.
  • Medical reasons – You can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies.
  • Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.
  • Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.
  • Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony. You should follow the guidance on the safe use of places of worshipand must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble when attending a place of worship. Weddings, funerals and religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to someone’s death are all subject to limits on the numbers that can attend, and weddings and civil ceremonies may only take place in exceptional circumstances.