Evidence shows that, in the past two weeks, the virus has spread to a much wider age range across the county and is no longer confined to younger people. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.
Oxfordshire is currently at the ‘medium’ or tier 1 level in the COVID-19 alert system. This is the national three-tier system, which classifies areas as medium, high or very high based on their numbers of infection and overall risk level.
Discussions have taken place this week with central Government about whether Oxfordshire should move to the ‘high’ alert level, given concerns over the spread of the virus to age groups beyond people in their teens and 20s to potentially more vulnerable groups.
The decision has been taken not to move the county to a high alert level at this stage. However, the situation is being monitored extremely closely and Council Leaders and Oxfordshire’s Director of Public Health are pushing for a move to happen as soon as possible.
Moving to a high alert level would mean that residents could not socialise with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
Leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth said: “In light of the escalating situation across the county, we are pushing hard for Oxfordshire to be moved to a high alert level. This would be a preventative measure to stem the spread of the virus and protect the county’s most vulnerable residents.
“We must do everything we can to keep residents across the county safe. We know that the majority of transmissions occur when different households mix, so increasing our alert level to high, which prevents households from mixing socially in indoor settings, is one of the best ways we can help our residents at this critical time.”
Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health Ansaf Azhar said: “With half-term approaching, as well as events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali coming up, we all need to do everything we can to keep safe and stop the spread.
“I know that the temptation for families over half-term will be to meet up and socialise. But with the virus spreading rapidly across the county, we need people to act responsibly.
“If you’re planning to meet up with friends and family, think about arrangements in advance – meet outdoors if you can, but if you’re meeting indoors, make sure you keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, and wear a face covering.
“It’s up to all of us to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.”