Keep COVID under control in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire residents are being asked to continue to stick to the disciplines that have driven down COVID cases since the peak in January as the Easter school holidays and further national roadmap changes approach.

Restrictions are currently set to ease very slightly on Monday 29 March, when the ‘stay at home’ rule is lifted and people can meet outdoors in groups of up to six or two households.

With the Easter break for schools following later in the same week, Oxfordshire’s Deputy Director of Public Health, Val Messenger, is urging people to remain extra vigilant as case levels have remained stubbornly similar to the previous week and the risk is still present. The countywide average is currently 33.1 cases per 100,000 people in Oxfordshire.

Val Messenger said: “As lockdown restrictions ease a little more on 29 March, our hope is that people will stick to the slightly adjusted rules and avoid leaving the door ajar for COVID to infect more people and drive case numbers up again.

“Keeping COVID under control at the start of 2021 has proven to be a very long battle. Yesterday (23 March) was exactly one year on from the start of the first lockdown. It has been an incredibly challenging year, with tragic loss of life and huge strains on our work and family lives. However, it has also been a year of learning what works and what does not in terms of combating the formidable opponent that this virus undoubtedly is.

“As we move cautiously into the next stage of the roadmap, I would ask people to proceed with care and vigilance. Even people who have been vaccinated should continue to abide by the rules. The vaccines seem to be performing as we hoped, but our own personal and collective discipline buys those vaccines the space to do their work. When you get the call to take the jab, please do so – it keeps you and others much safer.

“It’s also really important that people take advantage of the increasing possibilities for getting tested. On 29 March, a new symptom-free testing site will open in Carterton to add to the sites we already have in Banbury, Oxford and Wantage. These sites offer free twice weekly rapid tests for anyone in a public-facing role who needs to leave home to work or volunteer. With one in three people carrying the virus without knowing it, our symptom-free testing programme is key to helping to stop the spread.”

Symptom-free testing is available at:

  • Spiceball Leisure Centre in Banbury (OX16 2BW)
  • The Beacon in Wantage (OX12 9BX)
  • King’s Centre in Oxford (OX2 0ES)
  • A fourth site is due to open at Brownes Hall in Carterton (OX18 3JH) on 29 March.

Booking is required on the county council’s website.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, should book a test at one of Oxfordshire’s five symptomatic testing sites as soon as possible. These include: Oxford Parkway, Oxford (OX2 8HA); Woodgreen Leisure Centre, Banbury (OX16 0HS); Osney Lane, Oxford (OX1 1NY); Woodford Way car park, Witney (OX28 6JS); and Oxford Brookes University, Headington (OX3 0BP).

What were the cases rates in Oxfordshire in the week ending March 19?

All case rates are per 100,000 of the population:

  • Cherwell 25.2
  • Oxford 30.2
  • South Oxfordshire 41.5
  • Vale of White Horse 39
  • West Oxfordshire 29.8

What are the changes on 29 March?

Social contact

The evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors. From March 29, when most schools start to break up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or two households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.

Business and activities

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.


The ‘stay at home’ rule will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes. Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons. Holidays abroad will not be allowed, given it will remain important to manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme. The government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel which will report on 12 April.