In the last week we have seen the impact that the lockdown has had on COVID. Our rates have fallen by a third to 195 per 100,000 with 422 new cases in the week to November 25. This is good news and it’s particularly good to see that rates for people over 60, who are most liked to be affected badly by COVID, have also dropped.
Before the lockdown, cases were accelerating quickly with the number of people with COVID doubling every nine days at the end of October. This explains the pressure our hospitals have been under in the last month and some of the patients will still be in hospital now. Sadly, we know that 14 people died in the most recent week we have information for. Cases are coming down, but more slowly than they shot up - halving roughly every 37 days.
This is good news, but we cannot ignore the fact that cases have remained relatively high across England. In Solihull we still have work to do and that is part of the reason that from tomorrow we have been put in to Tier 3. We must continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus, drive down the R rate (the number of people that an infected individual goes on to infect) to save lives and prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed.
People are naturally tired and frustrated by the devastating impact that the pandemic is having on our lives and livelihoods. No doubt many in Solihull will be disappointed that on Wednesday we will be in Tier 3, facing the highest level of restrictions, but we must do everything we can keep a lid on our rates when some of the restrictions we have been under during lockdown are lifted.
The Tier 3 rules are clear, they are based on minimising social contact indoors wherever possible and ensuring we take precautions outdoors. Shops will be open so please take extra care when you are out and about: don’t go out if you are unwell or self-isolating, wear a face covering, wash your hands frequently and keep your distance in shops and when out and about.
A third wave of infections over December and January would hit the NHS at its most challenging time of the year. So we must keep doing the right thing for Solihull. Remember, our best protection against the virus remains hands, face, space. And if you get the symptoms, self-isolate and get tested.
With a COVID vaccine expected soon, if you are eligible for a flu jab please get one as soon as possible. Flu can be a serious illness and is very different to the common cold. It is life threatening for people who are in an at-risk group and each year up to 17,000 people die from flu.
Eligibility for free flu vaccinations has been extended to include those aged 50-64. From today they will also be able to benefit from the flu vaccine by visiting their GP or a local pharmacy to get the jab.
Getting the flu jab could help save lives. Public Health England found that people who became infected with COVID and the flu at the same time were twice as likely to die.
Finally having analysed our ‘drop and collect’ testing pilot in Chelmsley Wood we are now preparing to roll out more local community testing.
We worked with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP) to deliver the ‘drop and collect’ service. We aimed to visit 3,000 people over the two-week period and were able to get to 3,900 properties.
In all we delivered 3,100 testing kits, of which 1,643 were successfully completed for collection, representing a 53% test return rate – which is very good for a door to door service. We also identified a number of people who were asymptomatic and might otherwise not have known they were infectious who were then advised to self-isolate, helping to reduce the spread of the virus.
We still have some way to go before we can get out of COVID but with a vaccine on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This will take some time to roll out so in the meantime, we need to do everything we can to stop the virus through testing, self-isolation, social distancing and keeping friends and family safe.