Column by the leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced a new approach to reducing the spread of Covid-19. The government has now introduced a three tiered system of local ‘Covid Alert Levels’ in England- set at medium, high, and very high. Currently, South Gloucestershire is in the lowest tier (medium risk).

Yet this ranking could easily change if we’re complacent. Cases continue to rise in South Gloucestershire. To avoid stricter measures and to protect ourselves and loved ones and keep South Gloucestershire safe, we must follow government guidance, in particular on social distancing.

The ‘medium’ alert level means sticking to the existing current national measures. These include the closure of hospitality venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants at 10pm, and the Rule of Six. The Rule of Six prevents us from participating in social gatherings of more than six people in any setting, indoors or outdoors. To help stop the spread, work from home if you can and reduce social contact, particularly indoors.

If you have a smartphone, please download and use the NHS Test and Trace app. I’m pleased to say that the first testing facility in the district is now open, following our request for additional Covid-19 testing capacity in South Gloucestershire. The centre, at the University of the West of England’s Frenchay Campus, incorporates drive-through testing for South Gloucestershire residents and a walk-through service for students. The unit is run on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care and is on a strictly appointment-only basis. We hope this new capacity will increase the number of available test appointments and help reduce how far South Gloucestershire residents have to travel, contributing to helping stop the spread of the virus.

I’m so proud and heartened by how South Gloucestershire’s communities have supported each other so far. Thank you. Looking ahead, this winter is going to be tough. But if we all pull together and stick to the rules, we can emerge ready to enjoy life and thrive once more. Let’s stop the spread, and do the right thing. Remember: Hands, Face, Space.