Watford entered national lockdown restrictions from midnight on 4 January 2021. Whilst we have been through a number of national restrictions over the past 10 months to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus and to protect ourselves, our friends and family and our health services, it is really important that people understand what it means for them and what they can and can’t do.
Why is Watford in national lockdown again?
In the UK there has been a huge rise in the number of Covid-19 infections due to a new strain of the virus. This means more people are becoming infected, some are becoming seriously ill and needing hospital care and, very sadly, some are losing their lives to the virus. This puts NHS hospitals and keyworker staff around the country and in Watford under impossible pressure.
What does lockdown mean for me?
The main lockdown message is ‘Stay at Home’ apart from limited exemptions set out in law.
All the evidence we have about the pandemic shows the only way to drive down the numbers is to limit contact between households, self-isolate if you test positive or have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive, wash your hands, wear a mask where necessary and keep a 2m distance from others not in your household.
- You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary.
- You may leave the home to shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- You must work at home if you can
- You can exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person (outdoors only) once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term.
- Nurseries for younger children remain open.
- People who were asked to shield before must do so again - you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work
The full guidance can be found here.
What is a support bubble?
A support bubble is a close support network between two households, which are:
- A household with only one adult in the home (known as a single-adult household) and one other household of any size.
- A household where there is an adult who requires continuous care and there is only one other adult living there.
- A household with a child under the age of one and one other household of any size.
- A household with a child under the age of five who has a disability.
Once you’re in a support bubble, you can think of yourself as being in a single household with people from the other household. It means you can have close contact with that household as if they were members of your own household.
Once you make a support bubble, you should not change who is in your bubble.You should not have multiple bubbles.
How long will Watford be in lockdown?
Lockdown will remain in place until further notice. Moving back to the Tiers and lesser restrictions will depend in a radical reduction in the infection rate and hospital admissions.
Are the rising infection rates because of the new variant strain of Covid-19?
Whilst we do not know for sure, it does appear that the new strain that has emerged is more infectious. Current estimates are that it might be 50-75% more infectious than previous strains.
Variants of viruses arise all the time in response to either the way our body responds to viruses or because of the environment, or both. This is natural. Some variants become “fitter” or better able to infect and reproduce, others fail.
The strain is thought to be more easily spread from person to person because:
- it produces more virus in people who are infectious (a higher viral load) which means more virus can be breathed out in droplets or aerosol. So there is more of it breathed out to get into someone’s body through their nose, mouth and eyes.
- it has multiple mutations on its spike proteins (surface spikes) which means when it does get into your body it is better adapted to getting inside your cells and replicating.
The full guidance can be found here.
Should we be taking extra precautions against the new strain of Covid-19?
A lot of research is currently underway into the new strain but ways of catching the virus remain unchanged (droplets spread by close social interaction or aerosol spread in crowded rooms). The measures described below are, and remain, the best way to stay safe and prevent you catching, or spreading the virus:
- Stay at home as much as possible and only mix with people in your household (or support bubble if you are part of one)
- When meeting others or outside your home, treat everyone else as if they could be infected and behave as if you may be
- Physical distancing remains 2 metres and only get closer IF you are wearing a face covering AND for the briefest time possible; and avoid stuffy crowded environments
- Wash or sanitise your hands regularly
- Wear a face covering where required – which is in most indoor spaces
- ONLY touch your face and mouth if you have just cleaned your hands
- Good cough and sneeze etiquette – into a tissue or crook of your elbow and wash your hands
- Self-isolate immediately if you have symptoms, or are asked to do so by Test and Trace or council contact tracers
What if I cannot work because I'm self-isolating?
If you have Covid-19 symptoms or have been told to self-isolate because you have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and, therefore, cannot work, you may be able to claim some financial support. . To help those on low incomes who are unable to work from home and must self-isolate, the government has a £500 lump-sum ‘Test and Trace Support’ payment.
The full guidance can be found here.
What if I need help / support during the lockdown restrictions?
If you are worried about anything from finances, paying essential household bills or having enough food this winter, you can contact HertsHelp, who are there to support you - email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0300 123 4044 or visit www.hertshelp.net
Have any council services changed in lockdown (parking, waste collection, the Town Hall customer service centre)?
Most council services remain unchanged under lockdown but please check at .
Key service updates:
- The Town Hall Customer Services Centre is accessible by phone or online with face to face appointments arranged only if there is no other option
- Parking: enforcement of all CPZ’s other than yellow lines on main roads and bus routes and those protecting junctions, in order to ensure access, particularly for larger and emergency vehicles is suspended. Enforcement in council owned car parks is also suspended
- Both Watford Leisure Centre – Central and Watford Leisure Centre – Woodside are now closed
- Watford Museum is closed
- Community Centres are closed, apart from specific uses such as childcare / childminding / support groups /critical education training
- Cemeteries and the Crematorium are open for people to visit. Funerals are restricted to 30 mourners
- Places of worship remain open:you may attend a mosque, church, synagogue, temple or other place or worship, but you should socially distance from people outside of your household. This means maintaining a distance of two metres, or one metre with mitigations (such as wearing face coverings).
- Parks and playgrounds, remain open.
- Outdoor gyms, tennis courts and golf courses and other sports facilities wiare closed till further notice
Skateparks: we await guidance on these
Waste and recycling collections are operating as normal
Hertfordshire County Council recycling centres are open (except for Buntingford and Cole Green and the reuse centre at Waterdale and Ware are also closed but not for recycling etc) -
The full list can be found here.
Can I have someone in my house (or go into someone’s house) to do repairs or other work?
Official/registered tradespeople can go to other people’s homes for work purposes as long as you follow national guidance on how to work safely there.
What does lockdown mean for Watford businesses?
The council is encouraging local businesses to check whether they are eligible for government funding pots designed to help businesses impacted by Covid-19. This includes the Local Restrictions Support Grant, Additional Restrictions Grant and Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs.
Currently, lockdown advice for business has not yet been updated by government. The council will let businesses know as soon as the guidance is published.
For more information, visit: www.watford.gov.uk/businessgrants
Which businesses are allowed to operate in lockdown?
- Businesses which are allowed to stay open
- essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
- market stalls selling essential retail may also stay open
- businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services
- petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses
- banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
- funeral directors
- laundrettes and dry cleaners
- medical and dental services
- vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
- animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)
- agricultural supplies shops
- mobility and disability support shops
- storage and distribution facilities
- car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
- outdoor playgrounds
- outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
- places of worship
- crematoriums and burial grounds
- Businesses which must close
- non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect and delivery services.
- hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through
- accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances
- leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts, fitness and dance studios, riding arenas at riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses
- entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks
- animal attractions such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife reserves
- indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise.
- personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes
- community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services