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Statement re: July 19th changes and rising local infections

The government made announcements on Monday about the removal of restrictions related to the pandemic on 19th July. At the same time, the number of people testing positive is rising very rapidly both nationally and locally. Locally – there are roughly the same number of people with the virus as at the peak in the Winter, and there are still people at risk. Please continue to act responsibly – at the end of this post are reminders of how we can reduce the chances of catching or passing on the virus, and the latest information on vaccinations.

The government made announcements on Monday about the removal of restrictions related to the pandemic on 19th July. At the same time, the number of people testing positive is rising very rapidly both nationally and locally. Locally – there are roughly the same number of people with the virus as at the peak in the Winter, and there are still people at risk. Please continue to act responsibly – at the end of this post are reminders of how we can reduce the chances of catching or passing on the virus, and the latest information on vaccinations.

We know that people will have different perspectives at key moments like this. We hope that our Facebook group can be a space where you can discuss your opinions, experiences and concerns, and the community can support each other to navigate the challenges we face.

With a rapidly rising case rate please think of those of us still at risk – older people, people with compromised immune systems or other factors which make them vulnerable. Some people will welcome the ending of restrictions, but many others will have a very different idea of the ‘freedom’ that is accessible to them if numbers of infections are high and rising, and people they might interact with are being less cautious. Remember: vaccines don’t offer complete protection. The vaccination programme has gone very well and the overwhelming majority of people have taken up the offer of vaccines, however:

  • Not everyone is vaccinated yet
  • In particular, under-16s aren’t eligible, which includes those that are “Clinically Extremely Vulnerable” (CEV)
  • Some adults medically can’t have jabs
  • Immunocompromised people may not have been vaccinated yet, and if they have, may not get much protection from a jab
  • No vaccine is perfect – though the vaccine dramatically reduces the chances of being hospitalised with the virus, and will continue to save lives, the chances of catching the virus or passing it on to others is reduced – not eliminated entirely
  • Even young people in good health can end up in hospital, or suffer “long covid”.
  • Every case that ends up in hospital is removing an opportunity to someone with non-covid conditions to get treated
  • Rising cases amongst hospital staff are themselves limiting the capacity of the NHS to deal with patients

The government are ending many restrictions, but we can still choose to act conscientiously and with compassion for others. As a group, we often answer questions by point members of our Facebook group to government guidance and legislation, but our purpose is not to endorse the government’s approach at all times – rather it is to help to reduce the spread of the virus, to aid efforts to mitigate the harms caused by it – and also to help our community support each other through the difficulties caused by both the virus itself and the restrictions that have accompanied it. The effects of both will be with us for some time, and we will continue to provide a space to facilitate sharing of good information and publicising community support efforts.

To reduce the chances of catching or passing on the virus at a time when it very prevalent in the Stroud district and Gloucestershire, please:

Self-isolate if you think you might have coronavirus, or if you are asked to because you are a contact of someone that has tested positive. This is really important for preventing the virus being passed on.

Book a test if you have symptoms. You can book a PCR test through the linked website if you have a fever, new cough, or loss of smell or taste. There are sites at Stratford Park and in Stonehouse, as well as the offer of home-delivery of tests.

If you have other symptoms, it could still be coronavirus – examples are headaches, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, (particularly if you have been vaccinated or are younger). You can book a test through the ZOE app – sign up here.

If you don’t have symptoms, you can use ‘rapid’ tests (lateral flow). These are different to tests for people with symptoms and should only be used if you don’t have symptoms. DO NOT use these tests to rule out coronavirus if you have symptoms – there is too much risk you will get a ‘false negative’. You can pick up test kits from many pharmacies, or have them delivered by post (Note that the local PCR test sites can no longer provide them). Find out more about where to get rapid tests here – this includes a search engine for pharmacies offering kits.

For those without symptoms:

  • Meet outdoors if possible, and maintain a fresh flow of air if meeting people from outside your household/bubble indoors
  • Keep some distance (2 metres, ideally) from people outside your household or bubble
  • Continue to practice good hand hygiene – washing your hands and using sanitiser
  • Wear face-coverings when appropriate – see below

One change the government intends to bring in from the 19th July is to end the requirement to wear face coverings in some settings. Though this will no longer be a requirement, it will still be guidance – and, as Professor Chris Whitty, the government’s Chief Medical Adviser, explained, there are three scenarios where wearing face coverings is particularly important – and where he will continue to wear a mask even after the requirement to do so is lifted:

  • in crowded indoor spaces;
  • if required to do so by “any competent authority”;
  • and when doing so will make others feel more comfortable.
  • It comes down to a matter of consideration for others and politeness.

Finally, everyone 18 or over should’ve been contacted by their GP surgery and invited to book their vaccination at either The Vale, Beeches Green or Rowcroft, depending on which surgery they’re registered with. If anyone has not been contacted, please ring your GP. In Berkeley Vale PCN the recorded message tells you which number to select to be put through to the person booking vaccinations for each PCN. We believe the same system is in operation across the district. If you make an appointment to be vaccinated, please attend!

If you’ve already had your first dose, you’ll need to wait till at least 8 weeks from the day you had it to get your second dose. If you had your first dose at either The Vale, Beeches Green or Rowcroft, you don’t need to do anything but wait for your GP to contact you with an appointment. If you had your vaccination elsewhere, you can check your second dose appointment, and see if there is availability to bring your second dose to an earlier date. You need to cancel your existing appointment before booking a new one, but you can check availability for new appointments before doing this.

Thanks for reading, and your participation in our Facebook group – please keep asking questions to the group, and/or sharing information which may benefit others.