Just when we thought we were almost out of the Coronavirus woods, up pops a “variant of concern”.
For the last year I’ve been tracking the Council’s response to Covid very closely as deputy chair of the Covid-19 Engagement Board. As I’ve said before, sterling work by our local Public Health team, NHS and other partners, combined with a strong communications campaign and a mostly sensible local population doing their bit too meant that we weren’t hit as hard as some similar areas.
The vaccine rollout has gone particualrly well here too, again, mainly due to the factors I just listed above. As a result of the enthusiastic take-up of the vaccine, and cooperation with the latest lockdown, we’ve been watching the numbers of people with infection falling week on week. The numbers have dropped from 258 per 100,000 at the beginning of the year to less than 25 just a couple of weeks ago. To put that more pointedly, we were seeing mortality figures of more than a dozen a week through January, February and into March. It was only earlier this month that we celebrated the first week without a Covid-related death since last September.
It is a blow then that we have a new ‘variant’ in the borough and that as a result the numbers of people infected are going in the wrong direction.
It is important to stress that there is no evidence to suggest that this new ‘Indian Variant’ is any more dangerous that the strain of Covid that we have been living with during 2021 (the ‘Kent’ variant). On top of this there is nothing to suggest that the new variant is able to evade the defences provided by the vaccinations that such a large proportion of the local population now have.
So what should we do?
Step 1 is straight out of Dad’s Army – don’t panic.
Step 2 is just common sense – keep following the “Hands, Face, Space” guidance.
Step 3 is specifically for those who are still awaiting a vaccine – if you are aged over 34 get your vaccine appointment booked today. We have 11 local community pharmacy locations around the borough giving jabs, or you can travel to one of the nearby vaccination hubs. There are over 15,000 weekly appointments available in North Tyneside via the NHS National Online Booking Service. Or you can call 119 between 7am and 11pm.
Step 4 is for all adults over 16. Get yourself a PCR test kit and make sure you’re clear. You can get a kit from your local pharmacy or from the testing site at the Parks Leisure Centre in North Shields between 2.30pm and 8pm. Obviously if your test turns out positive stay at home and self-isolate in accordance with the guidance.