CUMBRIAN health chiefs have united to add their voices to what is now the nation’s life-saving battle-cry: “Stay at home.”

More than any other single action, as Cumbria braces itself for the inevitable peak in Covid-19 infections in the weeks ahead, taking that stay-at-home advice is the best defence we all have against this deadly enemy.

Hours after the death toll reached 58 at the two Cumbrian NHS trusts treating patients, health professionals from across the county came together to drive home the message that staying at home WILL save lives.

Only by doing that can we save the NHS from a catastrophic flood of Covid-19 patients into the intensive care wards at The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

Professor John Howarth has been appointed Strategic ‘Incident Commander’ for the NHS trust that runs the acute hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust.

He thanked communities for listening to the stay-at-home guidance, saying: “We need to break the chain of transmission of this virus in our local communities.

“I know it’s hard and that many people are making difficult sacrifices but the message from me today is that you are saving lives now, right here in Cumbria, through your actions.

“Staying at home slows the transmission of coronavirus, and helps us reduce the number of cases we expect to see in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s important that everyone continues to follow this advice by staying at home, and if you have to go out for essential purposes, please follow the guidance on social distancing.”

Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, Colin Cox, said: “I understand some people might be getting frustrated by the current restrictions, but I cannot stress strongly enough that people should do the right thing and really limit their movement and contact with other people.

“There are some encouraging early signs that social distancing is having the effect we want, and that the spread of the virus may be slowing down. It’s not easy, but it’s a small sacrifice when set against the chance of spreading infection and people becoming seriously ill. This is about not pushing the limits of what the law permits; it’s about people acting responsibly and working together to protect their communities.”

Richard Leaf, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, said:“The residents of the Lake District need the Great British Public to respect Government advice. Please don’t travel to the National Park.

“An influx of day trippers coming into the park will inevitably mean people coming into close contact and we really should be avoiding that. Enjoy your weekends at home, the Lake District will be here for you when this is all over.”

Richard Warren, who represents the 12 Cumbrian mountain rescue teams said: “We cannot stress enough the importance of staying at home. Last weekend across the whole of England and Wales there were only four callouts, with just one in Cumbria.

“The fells remain quiet and we thank the public for heading the advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save the lives.”

There have been criticisms on some social media sites of police officers in the county who are trying to discourage unnecessary travel to prevent the spread of Covid-19 - but Cumbria’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery said his officers were simply trying to prevent new infections, protect the NHS and save lives.

Their efforts should be supported, he said.