'By standing apart we can stand together'

Director of health at Public Health Northamptonshire, Lucy WightmanDirector of health at Public Health Northamptonshire, Lucy Wightman
Director of health at Public Health Northamptonshire, Lucy Wightman
Column by the director of health at Public Health Northamptonshire

I hope you had a peaceful Christmas and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Healthy New Year.

I also wish you health and happiness in 2021. However, I know many will not be looking forward to the next few months and no doubt another lockdown will be difficult, but if we pull together once more and adhere to the rules, we can genuinely look forward to a better summer.

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Currently Northamptonshire’s current Covid-19 statistics are frightening.

We have just passed the point of 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the county, positivity rates are at an all-time high, higher than we saw in March last year and among the highest regionally, and it was with a heavy heart that I received the news that the mutant strain of the virus had arrived in our county.

A new year often presents new challenges but this year is like no other.

We thankfully now have the vaccine, and therefore a ray of light in this darkness, but the new virulent strain of Covid-19 is far easier to transmit, making it far harder to deal with, and so we must adhere to the hands, face, space rules and be braced for some difficult weeks ahead.

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The Government’s decision to place England in lockdown is the right one, and I don’t say that lightly.

I know that working from home (if you’re lucky enough to still be working), being isolated from friends and family, and having to deal with loss and change are challenging – mentally, physically and economically, but we are asking for a short term sacrifice for a much longer term gain.

All residents in Northamptonshire and across England are therefore officially being told to ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’.

Indeed, the lives of our fellow residents, the sustainability of our NHS system and our long term health rests on following these rules.

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Under the national lockdown restrictions the Government is ordering everyone to stay at home with limited exemptions permitted in law, such as:

To shop for essentials

To work if you absolutely cannot work from home

To exercise once a day

To seek medical assistance, for example to get a Covid-19 test

Or to escape domestic abuse

Residents who were told to shield before are being advised to shield again.

I encourage you to look for the Government support which can be found at the website www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support.

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I know that we are all exhausted, those at the front line and otherwise, but believe me when I say that this must be our finest hour.

We must all play our part and stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

If we do venture out for reasons permitted then we must all behave as though we have Covid-19, we must wash our hands, cover our face and we must keep our distance.

Remember these three key things:

About one in three people have no symptoms and could be spreading the virus without realising it.

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Everyone should act as if they have the virus, even if they do not show any symptoms.

Remember: Anyone can spread coronavirus. Remember: Hands. Face. Space.

Residents have shown remarkable resilience in combating this virus to date and I know we can continue.

Washing the invisible enemy from our hands and clothes when we return to the house, using our face coverings with care and keeping a distance from each other outside our homes and in the street – are all key to staying safe.

Lockdown is extremely hard, but it is only by standing apart at this time that we can all stand together and beat this in the long term.