As we approach the next step in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the local picture on COVID infections echoes the cautious optimism of yesterday’s statement from the Prime Minister.
We are making very good progress and it’s now clear that vaccination is protecting people who’ve been vaccinated and reducing the risk of transmission to other people. This is good news.
So what do we need to watch out for now and what can we do to keep things on track?
First, our rates are low but we have seen an increase in cases in the last week with 37 people getting COVID, or a rate of 17 per 100,000 (30 April to 6 May). This increase is to be expected as more people are out and about but shows very clearly that the virus is still being transmitted amongst us. The largest number of cases now is in the 20-49 age group most of whom aren’t yet vaccinated.
Second, we are watching new variants very carefully. We were hit hard at the end of last year by the new ‘Kent’ variant. The new Indian B1.167.2 variant which was identified three weeks ago is on the increase and has created new hotspots in parts of London and the North West. We have also seen local cases in Solihull and across the West Midlands. Some of these cases have a recent history of travel, but others have spread within the UK.
At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that the vaccine won’t work against this strain but we need more information on this to be sure. And even if it does, there is a risk that this strain could spread in people who aren’t yet fully vaccinated.
There are some very simple – and very familiar things we can all do now to keep us on a positive path.
First, and most importantly, get vaccinated as soon as you are offered it. The more people who are vaccinated, the less the virus can spread. Getting vaccinated isn’t just about making you safer, it’s about protecting your family, friends and wider community and doing something for everyone else that also benefits you. Make sure you have both doses and encourage friends and family to get vaccinated too. Find out more here: https://www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/
Second, if you have symptoms, book a PCR test via the national booking system, and self-isolate immediately. If you are positive, these tests will also rapidly identify if it’s a new variant strain. This helps us to quickly tackle the spread of any new variants to keep them under control.
Third, regular asymptomatic testing twice a week can help find people who don’t know they are positive. Make taking a test a part of your routine. You can order tests online here and they will be delivered for free to your home or you can pick them up from participating local pharmacies.
Don’t forget there’s lots of help available including financial, practical and emotional support to help anyone self-isolate with their household for the full ten days, keeping you, your family and your community safe.
Our efforts alongside the vaccination programme have put us in this position where from Monday we can see people indoors, go to the pub or our favourite restaurant, visit friends and family, see our loved ones in care homes and take a cautious step towards a more normal way of life.
So, let’s keep doing the right thing for Solihull, your family, friends and wider community.
Director of Public Health