STOP PRESS: There is a Facebook live event this afternoon (Thursday 23 December) between 2pm - 3pm from the Birmingham Live Facebook page, focused on COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone living in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country. This is an opportunity for people to get the latest news and updates on the vaccination drive so they can make an informed decision for Christmas, New Year and beyond on vaccinations, boosters and staying safe.
Speakers include BSol’s SRO for the Vaccination Programme Sarah-Jane Marsh, Solihull’s Director of Public Health Ruth Tennant, Sandwell and West Birmingham's Deputy Medical Director Chizo Agwu and Dr David Nicholl (representing Doctors Association UK).
23 December – Message from Solihull’s Director of Public Health, Ruth Tennant
This week, I’m sharing the latest news on Omicron. We know that Omicron is much more transmissible and as a result, we are seeing a large increase in cases. We now have 225 confirmed Omicron cases locally with a further 701 probable cases.
In the last week we have seen overall rates rise in the borough: 31% increase in cases in the last seven days, taking our rate up to 606.9 per 100,000 with just over 1,400 new cases. We expect this to go up sharply over the next days and weeks.
Our rates are exceptionally high in young people, particularly those aged 19-24, where more than one in 100 have tested positive just this week. We have seen more people over the age of 60 getting infected this week too. This is a real concern as families start to come together for Christmas.
Why is Omicron of concern?
Omicron is much more easily transmissible, particularly inside households:
- Scientists have found there are more virus particles in an infected person’s breath when they breathe out
- This variant can evade (at least partially) antibodies in people who have previously been infected and in some who have had their vaccines
- The time from infection to symptoms is shorter by several days
- A person infected with Omicron, which is the most infectious variant so far, can infect others more quickly
- Up to 9% of people can be reinfected by Omicron compared to around 1-2% with Delta
Although early studies have found that the Omicron variant may cause milder illness than the Delta variant, we are still finding that many people are being hospitalised with Omicron. Even if it is milder for many people a smaller proportion are very ill. If we have a very high number of cases this will translate into a large number of seriously ill people. This is what our NHS is now planning for.
So what can we do?
Understand the risks. Knowing the current risks will help you to plan what you do and where you go over the festive season.
Self-isolation is the most important measure people can take to reduce spread.
People should self-isolate straight away and take a PCR test if they have even mild COVID-19 symptoms.
If you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to self-isolate, but you are strongly advised to be cautious and test. If you’re not vaccinated it is a legal requirement to self-isolate.
As of yesterday (Wednesday 22 December), people who are self-isolating and fully vaccinated can stop after seven days if they get two negative lateral flow test results 24 hours apart on day six and day seven – but they should still be very careful. Again this only applies to people who have been fully vaccinated.
Take rapid lateral flow tests before you go out. The Council’s community testing team continues to provide onsite testing at the two hubs (in Mell Square and Chelmsley Wood) and have home test supplies. Please do check the Council’s main COVID testing page for opening hours and times over the holidays.
Protection from vaccines against severe disease wanes from around 12 weeks after your second primary dose. This is why every adult is now being offered a booster within three months. The latest research shows if you are boosted then you have very high protection against being severely ill from COVID.
We are working hard with NHS colleagues and other key partners such as Jaguar Land Rover to make getting vaccinated in Solihull as easy as possible. This week there are number of walk-in clinics taking place up until Christmas and between Christmas and the New Year at, Jaguar Land Rover – Logistics Operations Centre, Monkspath Vaccination Centre and Solihull High Street Vaccination Centre, details below. Other sites across the area can be found here.
Remember to check the times and dates on the day before you travel to a clinic as they are subject to short notice changes.
There are lots of spaces and very short waiting times so please do come along to a local clinic or book your appointment online.
We know 32,429 people in the borough are not yet vaccinated, please do spread the word to friends, family and neighbours that it’s easy to get vaccinated and the right thing to do to protect ourselves and each other.
Finally, as rates increase and we ramp up the vaccination programme to provide an essential extra layer of protection, General Practices are implementing some changes to ensure they can do this whilst keeping staff and patients safe.
They have asked me to share the following:
- First visit your GP practice website to find out which services you can access online.
- If you need to contact your GP practice, call your practice. Do not visit your GP practice, unless you have been advised to do so.
- If you are invited to attend a practice in person, please continue to social distance, wear a face covering and sanitise your hands. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, have received a positive PCR test result or if you meet the criteria for self-isolation, then do not attend.
- Don’t forget, you can download the NHS App or use online services for things like prescriptions or other healthcare needs. You can also use 111.nhs.uk or call 111 for urgent but non-life threatening concerns. Your local pharmacy is also available to support with minor conditions or to provide further advice.
- For vaccine or COVID testing queries, you can call 119 where a trained call handler will be able to support you to book vaccine appointments, including boosters, or get a free PCR or lateral flow test. For more information on the services 119 provides visit the NHS website or for more information on vaccination clinics near you, visit the Birmingham and Solihull COVID vaccine website.
NHS colleagues have explained that these measures will be reviewed on a regular basis and as soon as it is safe to do so, they will return to offering more face-to-face appointments.
Finally, it goes without saying that 2021 has been another challenging year for us all. I would like to thank you all for your continued support in doing the right thing for Solihull.
I hope, that where possible, you can all safely enjoy a restful, happy and healthy Christmas!
Vaccination centre details:
Jaguar Land Rover – Logistics Operations Centre, Damson Parkway, Solihull, B92 9ED - For directions, the What 3 Words reference to find the location is: ///bring.star.stores (this can be typed into Google Maps). They are offering the Pfizer vaccination for people aged 16+
Thursday 23 December: 8:00am – 6:00pm (there is a free shuttle bus and a free ring and ride service to and from the clinic operating today. More info can be found: https://www.solihull.gov.uk/news/free-transportation-available-residents-get-vaccinated-christmas)
Friday 24 December (Christmas Eve): 8:00am-2:00pm (the free shuttle bus will be running until 12:30pm.).
Monkspath Vaccination Centre, 27 Farmhouse Way, Shirley, Solihull, B90 4EH. They offering Pfizer vaccination, for people aged 18+
Wednesday 22 December: 8:30am – 12:00pm & 1:30pm – 5:00pm
Thursday 23 December: 8:30am – 12:00pm & 1:30pm – 5:00pm
Friday 24 December: 8:30am – 12:30pm
Solihull High Street Vaccination Centre, 94 High Street, (Between Pret a Manger and Halifax (previously Thomas Cook), Solihull, B91 3TA. They are offering the Pfizer vaccination, for people aged 16+
Open daily: 8:00am – 9:00pm
Weekends: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Closed to people aged 16+ on 28 and 29 December, but will be open for children aged 12-15 only:
Tuesday 28 December: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Wednesday 29 December: 8:00am – 4:00pm