As has been widely reported, Covid-19 cases in Gloucestershire have surged in recent weeks. Unusually for us, Gloucestershire has become a relative hotspot.
But as with the rest of the UK, the link between infections and hospitalisations and death in Cheltenham has dramatically weakened. Deaths from Covid-19 in Cheltenham General or Gloucestershire Royal have plummeted, and are now mercifully rare.
That’s thanks of course to the highly successful vaccine rollout – the fastest of any country in Europe apart from Malta. Vaccines are already estimated to have saved hundreds of lives in Gloucestershire. That’s why it was right to pause Stage 4 until 19 July, to allow the NHS time to finish the job of building our core national vaccine defences.
But now we have to learn to live with the virus – and do so in a way which removes Government diktats and restores individual responsibility.
Although a final decision will be taken on 12 July, it is currently anticipated that all businesses will be able to reopen on 19 July, and the one metre-plus rule on social distancing will end. Criminal sanctions will be lifted.
Living with the virus doesn’t mean that there won’t be deaths. There will – just as we know allowing cars onto the roads will lead to loss of life. But we will have shortly got into the position when we can balance the risks without destroying our society or the NHS.
To be clear, I will continue to carry a face covering with me, and I will wear it if it seems like common sense in the particular circumstances, or if someone else would reasonably prefer me to do so.
Whilst the easing of restrictions will be welcomed by many, let us not forget there will be those who are apprehensive. That is perfectly understandable.
I urge our decent, tolerant, town to show kindness and courtesy to those who exercise their personal judgement differently. That is the Cheltenham way.