RESIDENTS are being urged to stay at home and abide by the lockdown rules to reduce the pressure on the NHS.

The plea has been issued by directors of public health across Cheshire and Merseyside who are leading the local response to coronavirus.

New cases of Covid-19 in the region have alarmingly increased, putting hospitals under extreme pressure.

Under the rules, people are strongly requested to stay at home and only leave the house for essential reasons such as getting a Covid test, food shopping, essential work, education, exercise or helping someone vulnerable.

Ian Ashworth, current chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health Board, said: “The next few weeks are going to be extremely difficult, and it will be some time until we see the impact of the lockdown take effect.

“People need to stay at home as much as possible. Only shop when necessary and exercise away from other people.

“If you cannot work from home and have a symptom free test centre in your area, get tested regularly so you can self-isolate before symptoms show.

“We are working hard with health and government partners to speed up and unblock barriers to the rollout of the vaccine for the most vulnerable groups, but this will not happen overnight.

“We now have a number of licensed vaccines which will mean more vaccines becoming available locally.

“In the meantime, we need people to double their efforts to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

The coronavirus vaccination programme has seen over a million vulnerable people and those that care for them vaccinated so far.

Members of the public will be invited by the NHS when it is their turn for a vaccination, and directors say everyone who is offered the vaccine should take it to protect themselves and others.

Those waiting for their vaccine should be patient and not contact the NHS or their GP surgery, as it will take time for the vaccine to be rolled out to all priority groups.

Directors added their thanks to everyone who has been doing their bit and said that by following the rules and staying at home, lockdown restrictions will end sooner and people can look forward to better times ahead.

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus – such as a fever, new continuous cough or loss or change of taste or smell – you can obtain a test by visiting or calling 119.

If your test is positive, you must follow the guidance including self-isolating immediately.

For those who need support during this difficult time, visit which has details of 24/7 crisis helplines and resources to help mental wellbeing.