A WEST Cumbrian MP has urged the public to stick to the rules as pressure intensifies at the their local hospitals.

Our sister paper the News & Star revealed on Sunday the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS NHS Foundation Trust ­— which runs the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital ­— had been placed into Opel 4 Alert.

The NHS definition of the conditions triggering an Opel 4 Alert state: “Pressure in the local health and social care system continues to escalate leaving organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care. There is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised.”

Copeland MP believes Trudy Harrison remains hopeful.

“Our goal is for 13.9 million people to be vaccinated by mid February which means the first four priority groups, as agreed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, will have their initial jab,” she said.

“Across Cumbria, we are on course and with the addition of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine joining the existing Pfizer BioNTech programme and I am increasingly confident.

“I would like to commend the massive super-human efforts being made across our community by so many and I’m sure all of Copeland will join me in doing so.

“On my local health call yesterday the most important message from those working at our hospitals was of course hands, face, space, to encourage, wherever possible, people to stay away from others, to follow the guidelines, to not travel to Cumbria for recreation or exercise from out of the area and to remember until the vaccine is rolled out our personal behaviour remains the single greatest action any and every individual can take.”

Mrs Harrison empathises with those affected.

“The rates of infection across Copeland and Cumbria continue to rise, the new variant is rife within our communities,” she explained.

“Our hospitals are now dealing with very full departments ­— but remain able to care for those who need it so far. Many people have suffered beyond my comprehension as a result of this pandemic.

“We are all absolutely fed up, help is on the way but let’s please all support each other over this final hurdle and give our health teams the best chance of caring, testing and vaccinating.”

She said her office would remain open for constituents, with most of her staff working from home.

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, described the lockdown announcement as the ‘news that nobody wanted to hear’.

She said: “Cumbria’s tourism sector, which supports 65,000 jobs in the county, has done everything asked of it and more by government, and the financial impact has been colossal, with two thirds of the value of the visitor economy wiped out in 2020.

“It is therefore absolutely critical that the government provides a sector-specific package to ensure jobs are saved and businesses are ready to reopen when lockdown restrictions are eased once again.”

She said the chancellor’s announcement was ‘welcomed’ but that Cumbria Tourism was ‘analysing the detail to ensure all aspects of the industry are adequately supported’.

Suzanne Caldwell, managing director of the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said a lack of consistency from the government made it ‘impossible’ for businesses to plan ahead - pointing to Cumbria being thrust from Tier 2 to Tier 4 to a national lockdown in the space of just a week.

Ms Caldwell said the chamber was aware of a hospitality business in the Lake District that expected to lose £200,000 due to the new lockdown.

“The chancellor has announced one-off grants of up to £9,000 for businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure,” she said. “That’s a help, and we’re pleased he’s acted quickly, but it won’t fully compensate businesses for the loss of trade.”