This week we reached our 600th death from COVID in the borough. We are finally seeing rates really decrease but this is a very sad reminder of the impact this virus has had and a moment to remember everyone whose lives have been affected so badly.
Our rate is now 82.3 cases per 100,000 people (20– 26 Feb) which is down a significant 40% over the last week’s figures. Our seven-day rate is currently at its lowest level since the last week in September 2020.
There is also good news in the over 60s age groups as the rate is 67.5 per 100,000, down 36% and is also leading the region. Currently a third of the borough’s population (33.8%), have received their first dose of the vaccine.
This is positive and evidence that lockdown measures – tough as they have been, and combined with the early impacts of vaccination - are working. So thank you for everything you have done.
Our challenge now is to get these rates even lower before schools go back and we start on the road to reopening. We are still seeing over 170 new cases a week and we need to be prepared for COVID being with us for some time yet.
We know that rates are highest in younger and middle aged people who will not be vaccinated until later in the summer so, as we start to come out of lockdown there continues to be a risk that the virus could spread and rates increase once more.
The basics work. So if you have symptoms, stay at home, only leave the house to get tested and self-isolate for 10 days. Support is available to help you and our contact tracing team will be in touch if you test positive to see if there is anything you need. We will continue to see cases for many months and it’s likely that COVID will be with us for a long time. Knowing what to do, and having a plan in place if you do get COVID is really important.
From next week, we will be expanding our community testing to all residents aged over two. We aim to make getting regular tests for people with no symptoms an easy and routine part of everyday life for us all. The rapid tests that are now available identify the most infectious individuals who are most likely to spread the virus to other people, although they don’t replace the need for hands face and space, they are an extra tool in our toolkit.
Regular testing is being rolled out in workplaces and secondary schools and we also have two local, and large scale centres ready for people to book into.
From Monday, 8 March, if you live or work in Solihull and don’t have COVID symptoms, you can get a regular, rapid COVID test at either North Solihull Sports Centre or Tudor Grange Leisure Centre.
We’re encouraging any business who haven’t yet signed up to the national workplace testing scheme or who aren’t eligible for this scheme to send their staff for testing every 3-5 days. Please be aware that although kits are on sale, our service is FREE and quality assured.
These tests use self-administered swab tests which trained staff will then process. You will receive your result via SMS message from NHS Test and Trace within the hour.
Both centres are open seven days a week Monday to Friday 8am-5.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-1.30pm and tests must be booked online. Anyone needing help to book should call 0121 704 6918, Monday – Thursday, 9am – 5pm, Friday 9am – 4pm.
Finally, we are pleased to see the return of children and young people to schools next week: this is a really important first step and the health and well-being benefits and educational impacts are so important. Testing for all secondary pupils will be in place when schools return and pupils will be learning how to test themselves properly over the next few weeks before self-testing will take place at home.
I’d like to thank all our schools for the huge amount of work that has gone into schools opening and getting ready to welcome pupils back in.