In the last week (12-18 November) our local COVID case numbers have decreased by 16%, with 588 new cases in Solihull. Our local rate is now 271.8 cases per 100,000 people while the average area in England is 210. And sadly, another three Solihull residents died from COVID last week.
While our latest figures are moving in the right direction and show that the lockdown measures have had an impact, they still remain high. The news of the Oxford vaccine is really welcome, but it may not protect us for some time, and we know what this virus is capable of. Over 55,000 people nationally have died from COVID this year. Now is not the time to relax and let it keep spreading.
We will be well into spring before the most vulnerable have been vaccinated and much later until enough people have been vaccinated to get ‘population-wide immunity’.
The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday made it clear that whatever restrictions will be in place in Solihull after 2 December, they will need to be strict in order to keep the R rate down. As he said “Maintaining pressure on the virus in this way will enable people to see more of their friends and family over Christmas”.
We hope to hear which tier Solihull is in on Thursday and we will put in place the necessary measures to meet the required restrictions. Whatever tier it is, we must not lower our guard.
We know that the R rate is driven by family transmission and by people being out and about. Our current lockdown measures are helping to reduce these types of transmission, but are not stopping them. People are picking up the virus in their homes from family members and anyone who visits them. To remind you, unless they are part of your support bubble it is against the rules to visit other households because of the very high risk of spread.
The current R rate for the Midlands is now at between 1.0 and 1.1. The recent fall in cases suggests that the R rate will continue to fall and it is essential that we keep this below 1. We need to stick with all the things we know work – social distancing, hand-washing and following the letter and spirit of the restrictions. Think not ‘can I do this’ but ‘should I do this’. This is a tough ask, but we need to follow these rules to allow some measure of Christmas festivities without paying a higher price in January when the NHS and social care will be under the most pressure.
I need to be honest with you about the risks of planning to host family gatherings, particularly if this involves older people. Big family get-togethers will inevitably increase the spread of the virus, and as night follows day, it will lead to more people getting ill, some of those needing hospitalisation and a number sadly dying. COVID isn’t like the usual Christmas excess of food and booze, which we can then recover from over a ‘dry’ January.
Testing and staying at home if you test positive or are a contact of someone who has tested positive is absolutely crucial. There is plenty of availability at local testing centres with many people booking slots within the hour and test results are coming back rapidly. So if you are concerned you’ve got COVID, get tested.
However, a word of caution, don’t ‘repeat test’ as the results could be misleading. Tests work best within 8 days of getting symptoms and after that point you may get a different result. You could still be infectious though so if you get a positive result, please stick with the 10 day isolation period.
Rapid, and wide-spread, testing alongside the roll out of the vaccines from spring is the way we will slowly move towards a post-COVID world. Until this is in place, please remember to follow the rules of hands, face, space.