The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), in partnership with the Jewish community and Solihull Council has launched a new COVID-19 support programme to help families safely come together and celebrate Chanukah which starts on the evening of Sunday 28 November and lasts until Monday 6 December.
Hanukkah, or Chanukah in Hebrew, is an eight day long Jewish festival, sometimes referred to as the ‘festival of lights’. Chanukah traditions include lighting candles, exchanging presents, and eating fried food.
During the celebration and beyond, the UK Health Security Agency is supporting the local Jewish community and other faith groups along with Solihull Council, to adopt COVID safe behaviours at their events and to promote regular asymptomatic testing.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said:
“Working with local communities to help keep them safe is a critical part of our work. We are delighted to be supporting the Jewish community to help the important celebrations of Chanukah take place as safely as possible.
“Around one in three people with the virus do not display symptoms, making it really easy to pass on the infection unknowingly. That is why rapid lateral flow testing is such an important tool – it is a quick and easy way to detect asymptomatic cases of Covid-19.”
Ruth Tennant, Solihull’s Director of Public Health commented:
“Last year many cultural and religious festivities came to a disappointing and unexpected standstill due to the pandemic.
“Whilst we see a welcome return to many outdoor events such as this year’s public menorah lighting in the town centre on Monday (29 November), I must emphasise the continued need for caution when attending such gatherings as COVID remains an ever-present threat to us all.
“I strongly encourage everyone to take a rapid lateral flow test (even if you are fully vaccinated) before and after the event to check that you haven’t got the virus.
“You could pop into the testing hub in Mell Square (old Dorothy Perkins shop) to get a test, it’s open until 4:30pm. Additionally, if you need your first, second or third COVID jab there is a new walk-in vaccine centre on Solihull High Street open until 6:00pm.
“Remember to use the hands, face, space mantra as we know this works to help keep you and others safe.
“If you feel at all unwell or are showing any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new continuous cough; a high temperature and a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell then please stay at home and book a PCR test to be delivered to your home or take at a regional testing site.
“In order to keep life moving we do need to make the above behaviours part of our everyday routine so we don’t miss out on the good times.
“Finally, I’d like to wish our Jewish community a healthy, happy and safe Chanukah 2021.”
Rabbi Yehuda Pink MSc, Solihull & District Hebrew Congregation, added:
“The Chanukah candles usher light into darkness and warmth into cold.
“The message of the Chanukah candles is that even in the darkest of times, even in desperate circumstances one may never give up hope. We will be setting an example by holding our event outdoors with individually wrapped food. We encourage all guests to take a test before the event and to stay home if experiencing any of the symptoms of COVID.
“By celebrating together safely, following the advice of UKHSA and being considerate of the welfare of our fellow citizens we will emerge from the pandemic a stronger and more united community.”
When someone who has COVID-19 coughs, talks or even just breathes, they release droplets which can be breathed in by another person. When celebrating at an indoor event in your community, or with friends and family, it’s important to let in fresh air to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus.
Rapid testing lateral flow tests have been distributed to Solihull synagogue so the community can attend Chanukah celebrations with confidence, enabling them to isolate immediately if they were to test positive. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should book a PCR test. Those with a positive LFD test should get a follow up PCR test to confirm they have COVID-19.