Coronavirus latest: 'Annual celebrations in Luton must not undermine efforts to control virus'

Celebrations in Luton around the end of Ramadan must not undermine efforts to keep coronavirus levels down, a meeting heard.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 10:50 am
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 11:04 am

The Eid festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide is scheduled from May 12 to 13 and will coincide with the easing of some restrictions nationally.

These events were limited last year by the first lockdown measures, Luton Borough Council's health and wellbeing board was told.

"We're going to be opening a lot up as soon as Ramadan starts," warned Labour Challney councillor Khtija Malik.

Luton Town Hall (stock image)

"Everyone will think 'we can meet here, the shops are open' and people lose sight of the fact we're still in a pandemic."

Councillor Malik, portfolio holder for public health, said that mosques will have people every night for prayers.

She added: "Our message to the places of worship needs to be clear from the outset.

"We managed Christmas really well - but it's not business as usual."

The council's director of public health, Lucy Hubber, explained that no communal worship was allowed for Ramadan last year.

She said: "After Eid, there was no spike in cases because the population did exactly as we asked them to do.

"We must recognise what an amazing achievement and what a sacrifice that was.

"Ramadan starts at stage two of the road map out and finishes just before step three.

"It's not clear what the guidelines are for celebrating Eid at the end of Ramadan, so we're pushing nationally to get some clarity."

Chief Insp Jamie Langwith, from Bedfordshire Police, said: "Our viewpoint is we share the nervousness around Ramadan.

"We go into that new stage of the rule of six. It's almost impossible to police.

"When there are alleged breaches, it's the police who get asked the questions, along with the council on some occasions.

"We're not trying to spoil residents' fun. We need to mitigate the damage huge amounts of people in enclosed areas can do, so everyone is safe."

Ms Hubber added: "We're seeing a decline in Covid case rates.

"But you'll remember my comments around the town's positivity rate remaining very high.

"That's now at 3.3 per cent. Three per cent is my marker that I'm in a fairly comfortable zone.

"I feel positive around the tremendous efforts our community have been making to reduce transmission.

"We're now moving towards a test, trace, isolate and vaccinate approach with a huge emphasis on each of those four elements for delivery at a local level."

One of the foundations of lifting the road map is continuous and regular testing of the population as the freedoms are offered, she added.

"We're looking to see how we can better support people to isolate, as some may benefit from an alternative venue.

"There's a study we're monitoring in Peterborough regarding HMOs to see if that might apply in Luton.

"I would strongly recommend residents stick to hands, face, space and continue to isolate, as well as get vaccinated."