Lucy Wightman’s column: Fingers crossed for some sun and people staying safe in what's left of summer
Caution is still key and even double-jabbed people are at risk of catching Covid
My fingers are firmly crossed for the sun to shine a little more as we race towards the end of August.
High streets are awash with ‘Back to School’ reminders and friends and colleagues agree that time just seems to be running away with us right now.
Maybe it’s because our brains are busy transitioning back to everyday life as we once knew it. Maybe we are desperately making up for all the things we couldn’t do during lockdown.
Whatever it is, I really don’t want the summer to end, especially having had so little sun so far. But we still have a few weeks left so let’s make the most of the great outdoors while we can!
On Monday we took another huge step towards regular life again and those who have had both doses of the vaccine or are under 18, no longer need to isolate if you are a contact of a positive Covid-19 case and don’t have symptoms.
Caution remains key however and double-jabbed people identified as close contacts are still at risk of being infected.
They are still being urged to take a PCR test and adopt other precautions such as wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and limiting contact with other people, especially with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.
If you do have symptoms, it is still a legal requirement to stay home and seek a test as soon as possible and — as I mentioned — even if you do not have symptoms you will be strongly advised to have a PCR test as soon as possible.
Until people get results of those tests, I cannot stress enough how important it is that they should limit their interactions, particularly with vulnerable people.
Some groups MUST still self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive Covid-19 PCR test result:
■ Those who have not received both doses of their Covid-19 vaccination ..
■ Who have received their second dose within the last 14 days ..
■ Who have tested positive following a PCR test.
■ Those who have been fully vaccinated and display Covid-19 symptoms must isolate until they get the result of a PCR test.
There is also good news on the vaccination front.
The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that all 16 and 17-year-olds in England are to be offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Monday (August 23).
This will give teenagers two weeks to build up immunity before school starts again in September.
Children aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 or who live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus are also being contacted by the NHS and invited for a first vaccine dose ahead of the new school year.
Please don’t delay – urge your youngsters to get jabbed as soon as you can so we can continue to safely live with this virus and enjoy our freedoms. It’s the only real way to give yourself, your family and your community the protection they all need.
Vaccines work and they are the only real way we can keep things moving forward.
According to data from Public Health England and Cambridge University, the vaccination programme has saved about 84,600 lives and prevented 23.4million infections and 66,900 hospitalisations in England up to August 6.
It shows the vaccine programme’s remarkable impact on saving lives and reducing the spread of the virus.
It’s important that people under 30 years of age continue to take up the offer of the vaccine. Infection rates are highest in this age group and Covid-19 can be serious for some. Please pass on these facts to anyone you know who is wary of the vaccine and urge them to get the jab as soon as they can.
I have heard further reports that some confusion remains amongst residents regarding exactly which Covid test to get.
If you have any of the symptoms detailed below, get a PCR test immediately — one that is sent to a lab — to check if you have coronavirus and stay at home until you get your result, even if the symptoms are mild. The main symptoms are:
■ A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
■ New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
■ A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
If you are not showing symptoms, then make sure you are taking lateral flow tests twice weekly to safely ensure you are not unwittingly spreading Covid-19 which only presents itself with symptoms in one in three people.
As further restrictions ease, regular lateral flow testing, getting both jabs and ensuring we are adopting Covid-safe behaviours as we go about our daily lives will remain critical to controlling the virus in the coming months – especially as autumn and winter looms, bringing with them the threat of flu.
The coronavirus has not gone away in our county or across the country. In fact, cases across the county have risen slightly this week So, again, caution is key.
We need to continue to be careful. We can meet up with others in well-ventilated areas - outdoors is ideal or indoors with windows open. We can wear a face covering when coming into contact with people we don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces and cover our nose and mouth when we cough and sneeze.
We all still need to play our part. We have all come so far together and none of us want to be poorly or, perish the thought, pass the virus on to somebody who is unvaccinated or vulnerable.
So, if we carry on as we have and look after ourselves, our loved ones, friends and community then we can enter the autumn and winter months in the best shape possible and look forward to many summers ahead.