PEOPLE living in Oxford are being advised not to travel to stop the spread of Covid-19 as cases in the city have now reached their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

The city has now been declared an 'enhanced response area', like Birmingham and Greater Manchester, and will be given rapid additional support by the Government including increased testing and help to maximise vaccine uptake to tackle the 'unprecedented' number of cases.

While there is no ban on travel - and those with plans to travel are not being told to cancel their arrangements - people are being asked to be cautious about non-essential travel in and out of the city to help stop the spread of the virus.

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Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “Cases in the city have reached their highest levels during the pandemic and we are glad to receive this package of extra support from central government as part of becoming an enhanced response area.

"It emphasises the need for everyone in the city to pull together to drive down the recent rises in cases that have been observed.

"Thank you so much to all those who have already taken part in PCR testing at these facilities over the last week.

"While this extra help with testing and vaccines using national resources will be incredibly valuable, it can only work in tandem with people taking responsibility for their own personal behaviour and choices.

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"If people have made firm travel plans for the coming days and weeks, then we don’t want to stop them.

"However, it might be wise to take a test before travelling to help protect those most vulnerable and avoid spreading the virus elsewhere, and meet people outdoors where possible. This is about being sensible and pragmatic.

"This will help us to drive cases down."

Currently, Oxford's cases remain firmly in the top ten in the entire country having risen particularly rapidly during late June and early July.

People aged 18 - 29 in Oxford will continue to be able to access the recently introduced Covid-19 testing facilities up until at least July 18 as part of its enhanced response area status, joining parts of the north-west and the midlands­­­.

The venues are at South Park (St Clement’s end), the Blavatnik School of Government, Walton Street, and Manzil Way Gardens, Cowley Road.

The testing centres at Oxford Brookes University and Osney Lane are also open every day 8am - 8pm, including for those without symptoms, but people need to book an appointment on the Government website first.

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Councillor Susan Brown, leader of Oxford City Council, added: "The fact that Oxford is being made an enhanced response area reflects how serious the situation is, just one week before we remove all remaining control measures.

"It is really important that people understand that Oxford is suffering a bad outbreak, but we can bring infections down.

"We have all developed good virus control habits during the pandemic, we need to keep using these and take advantage of the extra testing and vaccine clinics as well."