'I firmly hope and believe that this time, if we get it right and we keep the rates down, this could be the last lockdown'

Opinion

By Lucy Wightman
Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 4:28 pm
Lucy Wightman, Northamptonshire's director of health
Lucy Wightman, Northamptonshire's director of health

I hope you are all feeling well and managing to look after yourselves as best you can, both mentally and physically, during this prolonged period of lockdown.

My hour-long daily walk has thus far kept my mood buoyant and heart rate regular, but I admit, it is becoming a tad monotonous. I tell myself ‘it won’t be for much longer’ but keeping my spirits high is becoming something of a challenge. I miss my relatives, friends and colleagues, I miss going out when I feel like it and most of all I miss the way things were.

However, Boris’s announcement on Monday cheered me a little. I think the Government has chosen a slow but sensible approach to the easing of measures in the weeks and months ahead. The first of the four step plan will be to get our children safely back to school. The prime minister also announced that non-essential retail outlets and outdoor service in pubs and restaurants could be back by 12 April, with indoor service earmarked for 17 May at the earliest. These dates sound promising but I was particularly delighted to hear that they will be guided by ‘data rather than dates’ and each step will have a five-week gap so the scientists can see the impact as we gradually emerge from restrictions.

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The plan is for everything to be open again by the end of June, but at any point the pause button will be pressed if the data looks as though it is spiking. We will all need to continue to get tested, get vaccinated and follow the gold standard protective trio: Hands, Face, Space if we want to come out of this – and for a long time to come.

As you know, we are by no means out of the woods. The latest publicly available weekly data pack at the time of print shows 1,342 residents tested positive, we still have some very poorly residents in hospital and although the numbers are reduced, loved ones are continuing to die due to COVID-19. The good news is that we know that lockdown measures work, they will continue to be in place until March 29, and that since 05 January, adhering to restrictions has cut coronavirus related hospital admissions, reduced weekly cases by 64% and started to stem the sadly high death rates.

The age group with the most positive tests in this week’s data was again the 30 to 39 year olds for both men and women, which is typically the working population. The county’s community based testing sites for workers who must mix with others are at Lodge Park Sports Centre in Corby, the University of Northampton, a new site at Danes Camp Leisure Centre in the town which opened last week and Brackley Leisure Centre opening this week. The test is called a Lateral Flow Test and involves a swab of the mouth and nose and provides a result within 30 minutes. I know I keep repeating myself but please remember that the test only tells you whether you are at peak infectiousness at the time of the test, it does not tell you that you are COVID-free so it is vital that you continue to wash your hands, wear a face covering indoors and maintain 2m distance from others, even with a negative result.

We are all working together and doing so well but rather disappointingly, my colleagues have received further reports of group gatherings. Whilst we are under the current restrictions please adhere to them, whatever your age or hobbies, whether that be in a skate park, outside a coffee booth or in gardens and homes. This is a community effort so let’s work together and do the right thing so we don’t put friends at family at risk of severe disease. While restrictions are still in place until March 29 exercise only with your household or with ONE other person only from outside of your household.

It has been a wretched year for all of us, for some more than others, but I hope that the spring and the summer ahead offer the beginning of a brighter future. We all want to get back to work, get on with our lives and get to see and be with our friends and loved ones once again. At the end of this there are great times ahead and I firmly hope and believe that this time, if we get it right and keep the rates down as we go, could be the last time we lock down.