|Variants of concern highlight importance of carrying on following latest COVID-19 restrictions.|
Public health experts from the West Midlands are urging people to exercise care and common sense as we arrive at the next milestone along the road map on Monday.
Angela Cartwright, Consultant at Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands, said: “Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme and the majority of people complying with COVID-19 guidance, the Prime Minister was able to announce that the country is on target for the next significant relaxation of the restrictions from Monday. While this is wonderful news, we need to take this step cautiously.
“We are seeing clusters of COVID-19 cases across the West Midlands region, including a few involving variants of concern. These new variants are a potential risk, as some may be more transmissible, and we are still looking at how sensitive these different strains are to the vaccines, and how severe they may be. That’s why we are carefully monitoring these variants, with the strain B.1.617.2 first detected in India designated a ‘variant of concern’ last Thursday. It is therefore vital that people continue to follow the restrictions in place, to minimise risk to themselves and others.”
Although many of the most vulnerable have received both vaccinations, there are still a lot of people, particularly the under 40s, who are not yet protected.
Angela Cartwright added: “People who don’t have immunity are still at risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. Even those who have had both vaccinations still need to take care. No vaccine gives 100 per cent protection, so there is a small chance they could still catch COVID-19, and while they may only suffer mild symptoms, they could pass it on to others who have not yet received the vaccine. The advice is to minimise your number of close contacts and restrict the length of time you spend mixing with others.
“So, my message is – please enjoy the freedom to visit each other’s homes and have a meal out in the comfort of a pub or restaurant, but do continue to take care. Hands, face, space and fresh air are powerful preventative measures and still apply. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds regularly, and particularly after you have blown your nose, sneezed or coughed or you have been touching objects touched by others, such as escalators, shopping trolleys and cash machines. This is one of the best ways to limit spread of bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19.
”Take up the offer of regular testing, especially if you are going out to work or in social settings, and get a test if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, however mild. Continue to follow social distancing when not with friends or family in pubs, restaurants, shops and workplaces. Outdoors is always safer than indoors and, as we get into summer, this should be the preferable place to meet. Open a window to let the virus escape if you are in a home or office.
“We understand how important close personal contact is, but we need to remain cautious and continue to act responsibly. Hugging is something many of us have missed, but such close contact increases the risk of transmitting the disease – so use your judgement. Think about how vulnerable that person is, and if you and they have been vaccinated, before you give them a hug.
“Most important of all is to isolate if you have a positive test or symptoms and take up the vaccine when it’s offered to you. If we carry on being responsible and playing our part in the fight against this terrible disease, we will achieve the next milestone in June, when we look forward to a much greater sense of normality.”