Lucy Wightman’s Column: Northamptonshire has freedom again ... but with freedom comes great responsibility
"As we learn to live with Covid it’s vital we take on responsibility of protecting ourselves, our friends, family and community"
I don’t know about you, and I’m not sure I dare say it aloud, but things are starting to feel a little bit like how they used to.
A-Level students could finally let their hair down after receiving their results on Tuesday, the football season kicked off last weekend and I joined countless foodies across the county and went out for dinner on Saturday night.
Things do seem undoubtedly quieter than before, but the good news is that the music is playing if we choose to dance, events are being held if we want to attend, and we can leave the house if we elect to.
We now have the choice ... and it feels great. We all know however that with choice comes freedom and with freedom comes great responsibility. This has never quite rung truer in recent times, than now.
As we are learning to live with Covid-19 we all know by now that it’s vital that we take on the responsibility of protecting ourselves, our friends, our family and our community.
Over the past fortnight all local areas have seen a decreasing or plateauing trend in case rates and our positive choices through vaccinations, twice weekly lateral flow testing and Covid safe behaviours have all contributed to this progress.
There has however been a notable decline in the uptake of rapid tests in recent days.
I continue to implore you all to take responsibility for ensuring you are not infected with the virus unknowingly as you venture out. Stop, take 30 minutes and take a test.
The virus is still prevalent and extremely transmissible and the science tells us that that we can still pass it on even if we have been double vaccinated. Testing regularly helps to reduce the risk of onward infection.
The tests are FREE so find your nearest pick-up point and get yours today, or order online for next day delivery or you can pick up test kits at pharmacies and other local sites.
We all want to maintain the current freedoms we have been recently granted and we can only do that we if we use the tools we have at our disposal to keep us all moving forward. We can also do this by getting both doses of the vaccine.
There are two groups amongst which uptake is still low. That’s the 18-to-29-year-olds and pregnant women.
It’s imperative that both these groups come forward to get the jab and I urge you to spread the word amongst your friends and family of just how important it is. The risk of becoming ill from Covid is about 90 percent lower if you've had the vaccine.
Also, new data shows that one in five women admitted to hospital with serious Covid symptoms went on to give birth prematurely, and the likelihood of delivery by caesarean section doubled - the vaccine helps protect against these risks.
How else can we protect each other?
We can also meet up with others in well-ventilated areas where possible. 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. It is also vital to consider individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status when mixing with others and to tailor our behaviours accordingly.
We must continue to keep infections as low as we can.
There are major risks associated with high numbers of infections and all present grim outcomes. These are: an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, more ‘Long-COVID’ with workforce absences, and the increased risk of new variants emerging.
In the last fortnight Northamptonshire had seen a trend towards a decrease in cases, although volumes remained high with more than 2,000 residents a week testing positive. So we must not on our laurels.
Hospital bed occupancy has also started to rise again in the last few days. Figures remain concerningly high compared to recent months and all health and social care services are feeling the pressure, so this trend will continue to be closely monitored.
While life hasn’t quite returned completely to pre-Covid normality, I'm sure you agree that it is nonetheless time for us to start getting back to living.
The challenge now is to return to the activities we enjoy while maintaining a sense of caution and consideration for others, particularly those who are immunocompromised, who can’t get vaccinated and children under 16 who haven’t had access to the vaccine.
Because not everyone is equally protected against the virus, it makes sense to keep wearing masks in public spaces and acting with others in mind to avoid spreading the virus.
The more we take responsibility for ourselves and those around us, the longer we can feel like things are getting back to how they once were and the more we can keep things moving forward.