Column by deputy leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Ben Stokes.

With Covid-19 cases at an all-time high across our area, we are urging everyone in South Gloucestershire to act now, abide by the national restrictions and stay at home as much as possible.

The rate of Covid-19 cases in South Gloucestershire is now at its highest since the start of the pandemic, surpassing 300 per 100,000 people. This is higher than the all-England average and double the rate of the South West and is the result of a dramatic recent increase in numbers.

Hospital cases are rising, with a resulting strain on our local NHS, our care homes and adult care services and of course our vulnerable residents and families.

It’s now more important than ever that we all stick to the rules.

While there was good news this week of a breakthrough on a Covid-19 vaccine, Government advisors have said that it’s not expected until next spring at the earliest. In the meantime, we must continue to protect our community and our health services so the system can cope and care for those in greatest need.

What we do now will determine which alert level we are placed in when we emerge from the national restrictions on 2 December.

The Council wrote to Government at the end of October, requesting to be placed into the tier 2 or High level of alert. We didn’t do this lightly – it was in response to our rising incidence of cases across all age groups and the associated increases we were seeing in hospital admissions for Covid-19, including intensive care beds.

Our request was superseded by the announcement of the national restrictions but it is clear from our figures now, that if we don’t manage to slow the rate of infection, we are likely to move from national restrictions into tighter restrictions under the national alert level tiered system.

Nobody wants that to happen. We all want to be able to prevent the spread of infection and save lives, to protect the NHS and adult social care, and to support our local economy. We can make a difference if we all act now. Please - follow the rules and help us to keep South Gloucestershire safe. Together, we’ll get through this.

And if you need support – we can help. Whether that is by putting you in touch with community groups who can help with shopping and other errands or whether you need access to financial support if self-isolation means you cannot work or your income is reduced. Call our freephone number 0800 953 7778.