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Greater Manchester's public health bosses say ignoring rising cases is 'wrong and damaging'

Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, Tameside's Director of Public Health.

Greater Manchester's directors of public health have joined forces to call for serious caution ahead of all remaining Covid restrictions being lifted on 19 July.

The president of the Association of Directors of Public Health across the UK – who is also Tameside's director of public health – has spoken on behalf of her colleagues.

She said being relaxed about increasing case numbers was ‘wrong and damaging to public health’.

Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy said: “Nobody wants endless cycles of restrictions and lockdowns but the idea of being relaxed about rising case numbers is wrong and damaging to public health.

“We should be heartened by the enormous steps we have made thanks to inspiring colleagues working across our public services. Why put all that at risk? Let us be honest about where we are, the challenges ahead and what we can do to stay safe.

“One of the most divisive debates of the covid-19 era has pitted public health and the economy against each other. As we cast our gaze beyond July 19, we should be guided by a simple reality: there is no health without wealth and no wealth without health.”

Dr de Gruchy argued that public health measures employed around the world over the last 18 months have not only managed infection rates, but made room for economic recovery too and that these two things should not be ‘pitted against each other’.

She added that the vaccine was not the ‘perfect’ solution to the current situation either.

She explained: “Even though the vaccines are highly effective they are not perfect and there are still millions of people not fully protected. The current wave will cause significant illness, including long covid, hospitalisations and deaths.

“More cases lead to more children missing school and recreational activities, more people off work – with the impact that has on public services and businesses – and more uncertainty for the economy.

“We should proceed carefully not recklessly.”

Speaking for her colleagues, Dr de Gruchy vouched for local authorities and their partners as ‘best placed’ to manage the local risks of the virus and criticised ‘irresponsible’ national messaging.

She said: “Common purpose and clear leadership are vital. The sense of collective spirit throughout covid-19 has been amazing. Councils and partners are well placed – and trusted – to communicate effectively with their local communities, it is disappointing when these efforts are hindered by irresponsible national messages. 

“Directors of Public Health are working hard with council colleagues, their communities and partners to support a more open economy and society.

“Public health measures and looking out for one another will put us in the best possible position to weather a difficult autumn and winter. We should not risk the gains we have made or push public services to the brink unnecessarily. Living with covid-19 is not the same thing as letting it rip.”

Eleanor Roaf, director of public health in Trafford, also warned this earlier week that ‘living with the virus is not the same as letting it run rampant and do what it wants’ and called for the borough to ‘collectively and respectfully’ manage its risk levels.

Ms Roaf added: “All of these things are a careful balancing of risks, we do this everyday and we’re going to have to get used to continuing to do this.

“It’s making sure that we take responsibility for ourselves and we support others to live that healthy life; while allowing the people who’ve really suffered through this in terms of the constraints that have been put on their lifestyles.

“I mean particularly our young population, our under 30s, who really do deserve a break from this, who do deserve to be out in the nightclubs, who do deserve to be out dancing. It’s about managing our risks collectively and respectfully.”

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