'I’m not sure I dare think it, but things are starting to feel better'

Column by the director of health for Northampton

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 4:48 pm
Lucy Wightman

We have all now tentatively taken the first two steps on the ‘roadmap.’

With two more monumental steps to go, we are at least a county and a country enjoying and appreciating the great outdoors more than I can ever recall. I’m not sure I dare think it, but things are starting to feel better. I’ve spotted tables and chairs outside bars and cafes this week that I’ve never seen before. It's wonderful. It feels more like Naples than Northamptonshire - and I absolutely love it!

I am hugely encouraged by the progress we have all made in getting to this point - and we continue to make while stepping down restrictions. The latest publicly available figures show that COVID-19 cases and infection rates per 100,000 remain on a decreasing trend in all areas of the county. We must keep going though because, stubbornly, some rates in Northamptonshire do remain significantly higher than, or similar to, the national average. However, slowly but surely, I am confident that if we continue to work together, we can reduce case numbers and be in line ,or better still lower, than the England position.

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This will require further sterling efforts from all of us. Although restrictions are easing, it is imperative that we continue to abide by the guidelines and follow the rules. If you are going out to work think ‘COVID SAFE’ throughout the day to keep you, your friends and family and your colleagues safe from the virus. Remember ‘Hands. Face. Space. Fresh Air’ while travelling to and from your workplace and during the working day. Continue to use a face covering on public transport, unless eligible not to do so. Do try to avoid car sharing but if it’s necessary, then please wind down the windows, let the fresh air in and wear a face covering. I strongly encourage you to wipe down all work equipment your hands will touch before use and, if you nip out for a coffee or a break, remember to keep your distance. The virus is still out there - it's our job to limit transmission and keep moving towards more freedoms.

In the coming days and weeks, even though the weather is getting warmer, the call of meeting in the warmth indoors may be strong. Don’t do it! It’s really not worth the risk and is still not safe to mix indoors, that’s why it’s still illegal. Mixing between households continues to be the greatest cause of transmission locally. It’s just not safe and even if you have been vaccinated you can still pass on the virus. Until the rates of the virus go down further it is simply not safe to meet indoors, even for a cup of tea.

I have shared many statistics with you over the months, many harrowing ones I know, but this is one that I like. This week it was announced that nationwide 10 million people have received the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Here in Northamptonshire the latest figures show that we have given 80,669 second doses. This is fantastic news for all of us. This latest analysis shows that the COVID-19 vaccinations are continuing to prevent hundreds of hospital admissions and deaths nationally every day. Second doses are crucial to maximising the strength and duration of your protection from COVID-19 and I’m urging everybody eligible to get their jab as soon as possible. The not so good news is that while the vaccines have a striking impact on mortality, we don’t confidently know yet how much these vaccines will reduce the risk of you passing COVID-19 onto others. So, even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus and be careful with those around you.

We all know by now that we need to follow the mantra ‘Hands. Face. Space. Fresh Air’ as we go about our daily lives, get our first and second dose of the vaccination when called, get tested regularly and isolate immediately if the result is positive. It’s all of our responsibility to ensure that we all do progress to step three, and finally step four. It is wholly dependent upon the data and not the dates set out by government so, let’s keep on keeping on! It is within our gift to stop the virus from taking hold again. We can, and we will, get back to some sense of normality soon if we all work together.