In the last few weeks we have moved into a new phase with COVID. The low rates of infection across the UK and locally mean that we can get out and about more and the risk of catching COVID is also much lower. Our rates are now similar to the position we were in during summer 2020 with cases hovering around the low teens to twenties.
Currently we have a rate of 21 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week from 16-22 April, or 46 new cases. We are also seeing very few cases in the over 60s as we see the impact of vaccination locally.
We predict at this point that we will continue to see cases locally and, until more people are vaccinated, we will see clusters of cases and potentially some outbreaks. The virus is still around and a recent outbreak in a small business showed how easily the virus can take hold. It only takes a few more cases for the virus to begin spreading again and for numbers to accelerate.
There are some very simple steps we can take even as people start to go out and about and enjoy more freedom.
More than half of the local cases are now of people who did not have any symptoms but who were identified through regular testing. By testing twice a week with Lateral Flow Tests (LTFs) you can make sure you’re not passing the virus on without knowing it.
Make this part of your routine and if you do test positive, confirm this with a second PCR test via the national booking system, and stick with self-isolation. Don’t forget there’s lots of help available if you think you might struggle – more about this at the bottom of my message.
The Lateral Flow Device tests are easily available at our community test sites (Tudor Grange Leisure Centre or Newington Resource Centre building) where you can pick up a test to do at home or you can opt for an assisted test there and then.
Businesses were able to register to receive free LFTs, or they can pay an approved provider to provide tests or run a test site for them. Alternatively they can ask their employees to get a rapid lateral flow test to do at home, ask them to visit our community tests sites or our mobile testing van – you can check where it will be in the borough here.
Last week we launched the Business Pledge aimed at encouraging businesses to do the right things and let customers know that they are following the necessary guidance. Our own Chief Executive, Nick Page, was on Solihull Radio along with local businesses and business representatives to explain how it could help them give their customers the confidence that they are following the guidelines to be as COVID secure as possible.
Step 2 of the roadmap out of lockdown was always going to see outbreaks as long as a significant proportion of people have not had their vaccination. Over 60% of people in Solihull have had their first dose and over a quarter their second. This is starting to give us good levels of protection, but until we get to a point where the vast majority of people have been vaccinated we must proceed with caution.
Finally if you do get COVID, (a high temperature, a new continuous cough or you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed), you must self-isolate and get a PCR test immediately as you can spread the virus if you do not self-isolate. There is financial, practical and emotional support to help anyone who needs it, to make it as easy as possible for you to self-isolate with everyone in your household for the full 10 days, so you can keep yourself, your family and your community safe.
Director of Public Health