It’s the start of a New Year - and another one framed by us all living with COVID.
In the last week we have seen overall COVID rates rise sharply in the borough: an increase of 909 cases in the last seven days, taking our rate up to 1,498 per 100,000 with 3,257 new cases (24-30 Dec). We expect this number to rise over the coming days and weeks.
You will have seen in the news that the variant Omicron is causing this tidal wave of infections not just here in Solihull but nationally. This is due to it being much easier to pass on when we mix with others, particularly inside households. The good news is that this variant is less likely to cause severe illness and deaths, partly because this variant may be less serious and partly because of the protective effects of vaccination.
However, the number of people in hospital with COVID is increasing and there is very considerable pressure on the NHS which is being made worse by high levels of sickness.
Every day we learn more about how good booster doses are at protecting against severe illness and it is easier than ever to get vaccinated to protect against Omicron and other variants.
There are walk-in vaccination clinics taking place in Chelmsley Wood and Solihull town centre this week where no appointment is needed, please check the Birmingham and Solihull vaccine programme website for full details.
Alternatively, if you wish to book an appointment, please do so through the NHS national booking system.
If you or someone you know in Solihull is struggling to book or to get to a vaccination appointment, we can help through the Solihull Jab Cab scheme. This is a taxi service to help residents get to their COVID-19 vaccination appointments at any Birmingham and Solihull vaccination centre. Residents simply call 0121 704 8058, leave their name and number, and a customer services advisor will call them back to help book the appointment and / or book a taxi.
Locally our NHS services are feeling the strain due to their own staff being sick with COVID or self-isolating and we know that many other sectors are also currently affected by staff absences.
The Government therefore has announced the following changes:
- It’s now possible to end self-isolation after 7 days but you must have 2 negative lateral flow test results on day 6 and 7.
- From Monday 10 January 100,000 critical workers in England will receive free lateral flow tests through their workplace to help keep essential services and supply chains running. This change should help improve general public access to home lateral flow test kits over the coming weeks.
- From Tuesday 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow results will need to self-isolate immediately but won’t be required to take a PCR test. The positive result should be reported online. This is a temporary measure. However, if you develop any symptoms you should still order a PCR test, even if these follow a negative lateral flow result.
Despite national supply issues we do have walk-in lateral flow tests readily available in Solihull. If you live or work in Solihull and do not have COVID symptoms, then pop into either of the Solihull Community Testing Hubs (Mell Square and Chelmsley Wood) to take a test onsite.
Results are then sent via email or phone and should be received within half an hour. Alternatively, you can visit the mobile testing unit for the same service.
Home lateral flow test kits are still available to order online here: https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests
Not sure which COVID test you need?
The test you need depends on why you're getting tested and whether you have COVID symptoms or not. Visit the NHS website for details.
If you do test positive from a lateral flow test or have any COVID symptoms, it’s really important you self-isolate straight away.
New precautionary measures including masks are in place for returning secondary school pupils. We know this – with good ventilation and the continued roll out of vaccination for 12-15 year olds – helps stop the spread.
Staff, pupils and students of secondary school age will all have done a test before the start of the school term and are also being asked to test twice weekly using kits provided by the Department for Education to schools. Thank you all school leaders, staff and parents for your continued help and support with this.