We must protect ourselves and each other when last lockdown laws are lifted, says Northamptonshire's Public Health director
"I took a deep breath as PM made his big announcement"
I don’t know about you, but I took a deep breath on Monday as the Prime Minister decreed the detail of our final leap to Step Four on July 19.
We all knew it was coming, and I’m sure many let out a huge sigh of relief, however for countless others I know the news caused some concern. After all, the freedoms we have longed for are coming at a time when infections are rising rapidly, driven by the now dominant Delta variant.
The final decision to go ahead or not will be taken on Monday (July 12), but it’s looking likely that the last stage of exit from lockdown will proceed.
Just days from now, behaviours governing Covid-19 transmission in England may therefore no longer be legally imposable. Laws constraining the space between us, and the numbers who gather, will lift.
It will be up to us to protect ourselves and each other. Our responsibility. Collectively, we - the people - will be in charge of transmission and it will be in our hands to make sure our everyday choices are Covid-safe.
Sensibly, self-isolation for those who have Covid symptoms or test positive will continue, and the self-isolation regulations will stay for another few weeks.
There is, however, the intention to exempt the fully vaccinated and those under 18s who are close contacts from mid-August. The risk of transmission amongst these individuals may be high, so extreme caution must be urged of those affected.
Following a 50 per cent increase in Covid-19 cases in Northamptonshire in the last week, myself and my colleagues are keen to reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated and taking regular tests to reduce the spread now and in the coming months.
We all know that the more people we mix with, the more likely we are to come into contact with the virus, but if we take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of the virus, we can all enjoy the extra freedoms without fear.
I’m hopeful that the residents in Northamptonshire will continue to be Covid safe and responsible, and adhere to the rules dictated by common sense. Testing twice weekly and getting both doses of the jab remain vital.
The national “Grab a jab” campaign continues to offer drop-in vaccination slots. Local drop-in vaccine sessions for first doses also continue to run seven days a week, 8am-7.30pm, at the Northamptonshire Covid-19 Vaccination Centre in Moulton Park up until July 18.
No appointment is necessary - you just need to bring your NHS number, which you can easily find HEREon the NHS website.
The following sensible behaviours, endorsed by government, will also be essential.
■ Meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open
■ Wearing a face covering where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces
■ Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day
■ Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze; staying at home if unwell, to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses onto friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community
■ Considering individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status.
Personally, I will be continuing to wear a mask to protect residents who are not visibly vulnerable, and I will continue to encourage you all to do the same.
It is in everybody’s interest to try and supress the number of cases and the circulation of the virus. From the outset of the pandemic, we - as individuals and as communities - have taken responsibility to protect ourselves and those around us, and this must not stop now.
Inevitably we will see a rise in cases, hospital admissions, and incidents of Long Covid, as well and an increase in the chances of the virus mutating, in the coming months.
It is a clear reminder that this pandemic is far from over and it will certainly not be over by 19th July, so we need to continue to look after ourselves, our loved ones and our community.
It really will be up to us now Northamptonshire. Let’s make sure we all play our part and get it right!