Lucy Wightman Column: Summer holidays are here and restrictions have lifted but Covid is still a serious health risk in Northamptonshire

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'Vaccine is a personal choice but your choice affects the community you live in and loved ones around you', says county's public health director

Life is moving again. Happy (muddy) faces are returning home from festivals, a successful Silverstone is under our belt — thanks to all involved — and we’re back on the dance floor, well some of us at least!

After the 18-month roller-coaster of soaring and falling cases, I know we are all keen to keep life moving safely as we learn to live with Covid-19

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The summer holidays are underway and restrictions around social contact have lifted. But, sadly, coronavirus is still a serious health risk to many, especially the unvaccinated.

Mixing of people remains the most significant driver of infection numbers but thankfully we do have access to vaccination, which remains the most effective tool we have in reducing those numbers. We all need to bear this in mind, remind friends and family and take up the offer of a jab.

The impact of the July 19 easing of restrictions will not become apparent in the case numbers until next week but the most recent publicly available data shows cases almost doubled across Northamptonshire in one week, with 3,827 residents testing positive.

More recent figures show a slowing down of the recent case increases, but we are still seeing a significant number of people who are feeling unwell and hospitalisations have risen in line with this.

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Public Health teams in every county across England are continuing to monitor and manage outbreaks but we're asking residents to play their vital part in preventing further cases. The World Health Organisations mantra ‘doing it all protects us all’ really resonates here so I ask people to do it all and follow the government advice:

Northamptonshire's Director of Public Health, Lucy WightmanNorthamptonshire's Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman
Northamptonshire's Director of Public Health, Lucy Wightman

■ If you think you might have Covid-19 symptoms, take a PCR test at home.

■Take a lateral flow test twice weekly. They are FREE so find your nearest pick-up point and get yours today, or order online for next day delivery. Remember to keep testing beyond the end of term. Young people will still be mixing with their friends over the holiday period so please continue to encourage them to test themselves as well as yourselves throughout the summer break.

■ Wear face coverings in crowded places to help protect others.

■ Check in with the NHS COVID-19 app when you’re out.

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■ Wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds with soap.

■ Get vaccinated if you are 18 or over.

■ Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

■ Meet up outside or if you’re indoors, open windows or doors if you have visitors.

Also, it’s important not to do half a job – get both jabs for full protection against the virus. If you haven’t had your Covid-19 vaccine yet, you can pop along to one of a number of participating drop-in clinics across the county and ‘Grab A Jab’ without an appointment.

The vaccination centre in Moulton Park offers drop-ins every day from 8am to 7.30pm. Full details of drop-in availability elsewhere in the county can be seen HERE online.

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Getting a Covid-19 vaccine is of course a personal choice but it is a choice which affects the community you live in and the loved ones around you.

I have heard distressing stories in the national press about individuals who have been hospitalised with the disease and bitterly regretted not getting the jab. I don’t want anybody to be in that position locally and if you haven’t already, I would urge you to get jabbed as soon as you possibly can.

The race for the vaccine and the rollout programme was unprecedented in its speediness and I understand that some of you have had little time to understand its importance and to be reassured by its safety. To support you as you make your decision, or if you or friends and family remain in doubt, I have put together some world recognised scientific facts below.

Though the Covid-19 vaccine development was fast, it did not skip steps. The vaccine is safe and very effective. The development of the Covid-19 vaccines did not cut corners on testing for safety and efficacy. The vaccines were made using processes that have been developed and tested over many years, and which are designed to make, and thoroughly test, vaccines quickly in case of an infectious disease pandemic like we are seeing with Covid-19. All that happened with the Covid-19 vaccine was scientists ran all of the tests they usually do one after another at the same time - to save time!

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Side-effects of the Covid-19 vaccine are temporary and do not mean you’re sick. The vaccines do not contain live coronavirus and you cannot and will not get Covid-19 by getting vaccinated. After the jabs, you might experience a sore arm, a mild fever or body aches, but this doesn’t mean you have Covid-19. These symptoms, if they happen at all, are temporary, usually lasting only a day or two. They signal a natural response as your body’s immune system learns to recognise and fight the coronavirus.

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick. The Covid-19 vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the coronavirus if you are exposed to it. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, getting the vaccine is a powerful step in taking charge of your health. Although the vaccine cannot stop you catching Covid19, they do prevent severe Covid-19 symptoms and reduce the risk of death.

Getting vaccinated for Covid-19 helps others in your community. Older people and those living with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are more likely to experience severe — even fatal — cases of Covid-19 if they catch it. The more people who receive the coronavirus vaccines, the sooner vulnerable people can feel safe among others as it reduces the risk of onward transmission between people.

Time is of the essence. Some people are deciding not to get the coronavirus vaccines until more people have had them. Vaccine hesitancy can affect people of all different backgrounds, ages and ethnicities. But waiting too long to be vaccinated allows the coronavirus to continue spreading in the community, with new variants emerging. Severe COVID-19 can be very dangerous: The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected.

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Pregnant women are at risk of getting severely ill with Covid-19, particularly in their third trimester. New data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System shows that one in 10 pregnant women admitted to hospital with symptoms of Covid needed intensive care.

Vaccines can’t save lives unless people get vaccinated.

By themselves, the Covid-19 vaccines cannot shorten the pandemic. They can only work when communities agree to receive them.

Doing it all really does protect us all. No one is sure when the pandemic will be over but every person who gets protection by getting a vaccination and behaving Covid safely, helps us continue life without restrictions.

If we all protect ourselves and each other, then we can all keep moving on and getting on with our lives. It’s been a long time coming, let’s make sure it lasts!