LA7 Directors of Public Health Statement 20 May - We're Not Out of the Woods Yet
As we all enjoy more freedoms as a result of Covid-19 restrictions easing, we need to remember that the virus is still with us.
While embracing loved ones for the first time in over a year, or enjoying a meal indoors at our favourite restaurant and celebrating the progress of the vaccination programme, it is understandable that we could feel like the pandemic is over.
But the reality is that we're not out of the woods yet.
Some areas of the country are beginning to see infection rates creep up again - some are increasing very quickly - and cases have been linked to new variants of concern which appear to be more easily passed on.
Schools and businesses across our region have been affected by small, localised outbreaks and as we know from painful experience, this is likely to result in spread among the wider community.
Our communities have sacrificed a great deal to drive down infection rates and this diligence has led to the Roadmap progressing according to its original schedule. There is, however, no guarantee that restrictions will be lifted further on June 21 as we all hope they will be.
The vaccine remains one of the best ways of protecting ourselves and others so our message today is to ask everyone to take up both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine when it is offered.
Early data indicates the vaccine protects against the variants of concern we are seeing. So even if you missed out on taking this up when it was first offered it's not too late to have the vaccine, you just need to visit www.nhs.uk
Although the vast majority of those awaiting vaccines are in the less vulnerable age categories, even those under 50 can suffer severe illness or death. People in these cohorts may also be more likely to have persistent symptoms - or long covid
More freedom means the virus has more chance to spread so we must do everything we can to limit transmission and the potential emergence of more harmful variants. Whether you're waiting for your jab or you have had one or both doses, remember to continue to follow all the rules as no vaccine is 100% effective.
If we develop symptoms we must self-isolate immediately, book a PCR test and respond to Test and Trace services to quickly identify close contacts and possible outbreaks.
Even if we feel well, we can better protect our loved ones by regularly taking rapid-turnaround tests at home - they are an important tool in our fight against this disease as many as one in three of us may be carrying Covid and passing it to others without knowing.
We can't afford for the virus to spread uncontrollably once again throughout our population. Please make sure you do your bit to help us keep moving forwards to support livelihoods as well as save lives.
Wendy Burke, Director of Public Health, North Tyneside
Amanda Healy, Director Public Health, County Durham
Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health, Gateshead
Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health, Newcastle
Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health, Northumberland
Tom Hall, Director of Public Health, South Tyneside
Gerry Taylor, Director of Public Health, Sunderland