Corby residents, renowned for their community spirit and dogged determination in the face of adversity, are being urged by those in the town to dig deep and stay at home to finally beat Covid.
Corby's Covid case rates in all communities have remained stubbornly high, with the case rate per 100,000 topping the 200 mark and the charts for the majority of the year.
Now members of the Corby community have rallied in a call to make one large effort to reduce the transmission of the deadly virus.
Last week, Lucy Wightman, director of public health at Northamptonshire County Council, responded firmly to a suggestion that Monday's easing to allow some outdoor gatherings, limited outdoor mixing and sports could be disastrous for Corby.
She said: "Whether it's going to be disastrous or not really lies within the behaviours and the responsibility of each individual Corby resident and indeed across Northamptonshire."
County public health bosses said their data shows that houses of multiple occupation are not a significant factor in the town's high Covid rates.
Leading the calls for restraint, Iain Smith, head of environmental services for Corby Council, said: “Covid-19 figures in Corby remain high and it is down to us, the people of the borough to drive these figures down in order to come out of lockdown with the rest of the country.
“Whilst measures have been eased this week, we would like to remind residents of the importance of adhering to the rules.
"Do not mix with anyone outside of your bubble indoors, continue to social distance when in public, wear a face covering, ensuring that this is placed over both your mouth and nose, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and avoid car sharing where possible.
“Corby is a town known for coming together to do the right thing and there has never been a more prominent time for us all to work together to tackle the spread of Coronavirus in the borough.”
Chloe Marshall is a nurse who regularly dons full PPE to care for Covid-19 patients in Kettering General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. She said she is aware of behaviour in Corby which has deeply disappointed her.
She said: “Unfortunately I know of examples of people in Corby doing whatever they want, having parties, and gatherings and socialising. It is deeply disappointing to everyone who is working on the Covid frontline to see this sort of behaviour.
“At KGH we are seeing the death and devastation this is causing for families - and the impact it is having on me and my colleagues who are dealing with it on a daily basis.
“I have seen people as young as 30 who have been seriously ill and many people who have become critically ill who don’t have other underlying conditions.
“Many people are dying. You just don’t know if you will survive this disease. People must follow the rules, hands, face, and space.
"They must do it all of the time with no exceptions. Otherwise this will just go on and on.”
Superintendent Elliot Foskett, silver commander for Northants Police's response to Covid-19, said: “I totally understand how difficult it has been during lockdown but we just need to follow the rules for a few more weeks.
“There’s a real community spirit in Corby, more than any other area, and I would appeal to everyone to show grit and determination and I know they can do it in time for summer.
”When the weather is warmer people mix more and tend to have a beer and in those situations our guard is down.
“If you are having a party indoors then you will get a knock on the door from the boys and girls in blue. That could be an expensive party.
“Most people just see the uniform. All my staff have loved ones - we get that people are fed up of lockdown restrictions but it’s the law.
“People will have to grit their teeth. It will just increase the risk and Corby rates could stay higher. Nobody wants to see the tier system. It’s hard to police that. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Don’t have parties, be sensible and don’t break the law.”
Corby Town Shopping & Willow Place Centre Director, Dan Pickard, echoed the stick to the rules message, saying: "It's down to everybody. We have got to follow the rules and do everything necessary.
"We have been working with the Health Authority, Environmental Health and the police to get the message across with giant posters across the town.
"I take my hat off to them for all their work. There's not a lot else they can say or do. Everyone has got to understand the message.
"I'm the same as everyone else and I want to get back to normality. It's down to us, the people of Corby."
Publican Cliff Morton, is desperate to get back behind the bar of his two licensed premises - The Knights' Lodge and The Viking Club but won't be opening in April.
He said: "We have a duty to abide by the rules. I had Covid and survived it. Thankfully I'm here.
"Everyone needs to keep doing as they asked. If it was a horse race we are approaching the final furlong and the final hurdle - we don't want to fall just before the finishing line.
"There can't be a new normal. This lockdown needs to be the final time if I am still to be running a pub next January."
Lawrence Ferguson has been mayor of Corby during the majority of the pandemic and has been shocked to see some of the gatherings over the past few days.
He said: "I went to the Boating Lake park for a walk and there were supposed to be only 20 people on the equipment - there must have been about 150 people.
"They were picking up each other's children.
"I am worried that we are going to get left behind. We need to remember Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air - I want to get back to normal. I'm trying my best to follow the rules.
"I have had both my vaccine jabs as a volunteer on the Novavax trial but I think ever since the vaccines we have had some complacency."
Principal of Lodge Park Academy, Carly Waterman has been equally frustrated but believes that people in the town will pull together to get the rates down.
She said: "However frustrating the restrictions appear, it's important that we follow them to the letter.
"Some people may think 'I'm only breaking the rule in a tiny way' but as we've said to our school community - you must stick to the rules.
"We want to get back to our celebrations and we have all got a responsibility to keep everyone safe. There are so many vulnerable people out there and we need to do every little bit we can to keep them safe.
"As a town Corby always pulls together. There's a real spirit in our town and we need to draw on that spirit and pull together."
Terri Meechan, lost her husband Mick Pavitt to Covid last May and knows the devastating effect of the disease, she said: "It's not rocket science, we know what the rules are.
"I only go shopping once a week to do a big shop and it scares me to death. People treat it like a social event.
"People have openly said that they are going up to Scotland to stay for the week. They may have a good reason for doing it but couldn't they do something different?
"I was someone who was never at home, now I'm home all the time and it's killing me. I want to get out and see friends. Covid has changed my life. If it wasn't for Covid Mick would still be here. People need to play by the rules."
Hairdresser Stacey Fotheringham has been preparing her salon for when she is allowed to re-open to customers.
With her appointment book chock-a-block with clients, she wants the final go-ahead to be given and believes that Corby can get the Covid case rates down.
She said: "We can absolutely do this. It's such a short time and by April 12, fingers crossed, I will be welcoming back my customers.
"Out of last year, I have only been able to work for three to four months, the rest I have been working in Morrison's. This is the final push and we can get there."
Founder of Corby Radio, DJ and presenter Des Barber, spent 19 days in ICU with Covid-19 and is convinced that the spirit of Corby will prevail to beat the case rate.
He said: "I think we, the people of Corby, are very resilient and can step up to the plate and we need to do it more than ever. People who I have spoken to ask me what it was like being in hospital and I say that Covid is real and you don't want it. We need to be careful for each other.
"The rule change doesn't just switch it off. We want it to be over and I honestly believe that the majority of the people in Corby want the same."
Stacey Price, Corby Community First Responder, volunteers for East Midlands Ambulance Service. She said: “Stay at home and help us to save lives. We can’t help people if they don’t help themselves. We need to stay at home.
“I don’t know why the cases have remained high, maybe it’s to do with the lateral flow tests but I have seen people outside one factory that was having a fire drill and there were no masks.
“I think people in Corby can do it. Hopefully the weather will help by raining. We are all fed up but we need to stick to the rules."
Only when the Government is sure that it is safe to move from one step to the next will the final decision be made to ease restrictions.
The decision will be based on four tests:
• The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
• Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
• Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
• Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern
Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman said that the Government does not want to have local tiering and that it wants the whole country to come out of lockdown together but that there is flexibility should Corby not be in a position to come out of lockdown.
"Central government is clear we want to do this as a country but they have afforded the flexibility should they need it," she added.
"We have provided as many tools as within our gift at this time and we've focused a lot of those efforts in Corby but it's about encouraging people to utilise them.
"They're there to protect themselves and their work colleagues and their friends and family so please, the more people we have engaging in those services the more likely we are to keep those cases low and to be able to move forward.
"If we see exponential rises we do risk getting some of those additional freedoms back."