As we move into a new phase with the lifting of more lockdown measures we’re also facing some uncertainty as we understand the impact of new variants. We know that the recent B1.167.2 Indian variant spreads rapidly, possibly quicker than the Kent variant which took hold at the end of last year.
We have seen this happen in some areas of the country including parts of London and Bolton where rates have increased rapidly.
Locally our rates are still low at 12 cases per 100,000, but with five confirmed new variant cases over the last few weeks we need to be on our guard.
There’s no indication that the vaccine is not effective against the new variant, but to make sure people are fully protected the vaccination programme is being turbo-charged, so that anyone who is over the age of 50 gets their second dose within 8 weeks rather than 12 weeks.
94% of people aged 50 or over in Solihull have had their first dose and 34% their second, so over the next few weeks, the NHS will be aiming to get everyone who has not had both doses fully vaccinated.
It’s really important that people have their vaccination as soon as they are eligible. And it’s not too late to be vaccinated if you have been offered it but haven’t yet had it. Please spread the word so we can build our vaccine firewall as quickly as possible and keep our communities safe. Vaccination is now being offered to anyone aged 36 or over or who will be 36 by 1 July.
While the vaccination programme continues to roll out, until we have even higher numbers of people fully vaccinated, our main protection to stop the spread of the virus is test, trace and self-isolate.
We need to find cases quickly through testing, tracing anyone who’s been in close contact and supporting people to do the right thing and self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus in its tracks.
Here are three things you can do:
- Get tested regularly using easily available testing kits. Do this twice a week if you’re out and about and in contact with other people. Make it part of your routine.
- Self-isolate if you have COVID or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive. You may also be offered a PCR test if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
- Get vaccinated when you’re offered it and make sure you have both doses.
Testing is now easier than ever. You can take a lateral flow test (LFT) at our new walk-in COVID-19 Community testing hub in Solihull located next to Halifax Bank on the High Street. You might have to queue but you don’t need to book.
If you would prefer to book an appointment for a test, then you can at Newington Resource Centre in Marston Green. We also have the mobile testing van touring the borough.
As restrictions lift, take it steady and stick with hands, face, space and fresh air. You are still safer to meet outdoors if you can. If you do meet inside, open the windows to let fresh air in and wash hands and clean surfaces regularly to remove any potential droplets of the virus.
If you have symptoms or your LFT test is positive you must self-isolate immediately along with your household for 10-full days and book a PCR test via the national booking system. The PCR tests will also help us to identify if it’s a new variant strain in order to control the spread of any new variants.
Don’t forget there’s lots of help available including financial, practical and emotional support should you need to self-isolate. Doing this and implementing all the other precautions listed above will help to keep ourselves, our families, colleagues and community safe. If you do test positive our contact tracing team will be in touch and they will check if there’s anything you need to help you self-isolate.
Director of Public Health