Lucy Wightman’s column: Olympic golds are not the only good news for Northamptonshire

Falling Covid cases seems to be a trend rather than a blip .. but we've not beaten the virus yet, says county's public health director

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 8:45 am

Fantastic gymnastics, the best of BMX and the delights of Tom Daley’s diving .... the Tokyo Olympics has kept my household entertained this week.

It has been wonderful to watch so many extraordinary athletes from across the world coming together to compete, especially so following the international trauma of the past 18 months.

We know we have not yet defeated coronavirus, but the risk management and containment involved in enabling the event has been a Herculean achievement and one for which we should be universally proud.

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Olympians Tom Daley, Max Whitlock and Corby's Charlotte Worthington have helped lift the Covid gloom

Much closer to home, there is also positive news. Covid-19 case rates are going down, and this seems to be a trend rather than a blip. All the borough and district areas in Northamptonshire have seen a reduction of between 25 to 42 per cent in the last two weeks, which is fantastic.

More than anything this reduction is due to the vaccination programme, which is the best route out of this problem, for Northamptonshire, Great Britain and the world.

If you haven’t already been jabbed, please don’t put it off any longer. If you get vaccinated you don’t just protect yourself, but you protect those who for medical reasons cannot get vaccinated themselves.

If you have any have questions which may currently be barrier, then myself and my team are happy to address them.

Lucy Wightman is Northamptonshire's Director of Public Health

Also, you may have heard in the news that In a bid to boost vaccine uptake among the young, the government has announced companies including Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo will offer discounted takeaways and taxi rides as an incentive for people in England to get their Covid jabs. For those who you think this may tempt – please spread the word.

Recent data shows that the vaccination programme has also reduced hospital admissions and deaths compared to this time last year. However, we mustn't be too complacent because hospital bed occupancy has started to rise again in the last few weeks, with the latest figures being concerningly high compared to recent months.

The latest publicly available data shows a total of 60 Covid-positive patients occupied hospital beds in Northamptonshire on August 3, which represents an increase when compared to the previous week. In the most recent week’s figures, Northamptonshire sadly also saw an increased number of deaths with a total of five recorded.

When you look at the age groups of the most affected by the virus on a weekly basis, it is still secondary school age children followed by 20-29-year-olds.

It’s the summer and we are all feeling more relaxed and free but please ensure that when your children and young people meet up with their friends and peers during the summer holidays, they do so in a Covid safe way.

Make sure they are 'Covid Aware' by talking to them and supporting them to make the safest choices and minimise the risks. Ask them to wash their hands the moment they get home and explain the possible risk of transmission if sharing crisps, sweets and drinks. For older children, ensure that they have masks when they go out in case they wish to use them.

Encourage play-dates or meet-ups outside rather than indoors – if it has to be indoors then make sure the windows are open and fresh air is coming in. I would also encourage all families of secondary school age children to be continuing to complete lateral flow tests throughout the summer holidays.

Indeed, I have heard concerning reports in Public Health outbreak meetings of some residents still being unsure which test to take when they have symptoms.

Isolation of people likely to be infectious remains particularly important for reducing transmission so please remember the importance of taking a lateral flow test twice weekly if you have no symptoms of Covid-19, but to take a PCR test if symptomatic in any way and isolate immediately until you receive a result.

The recent small reduction in cases is great news, so let’s also make sure things keep moving forward and that we not only protect the health of the population but also the economy. Keep small and large businesses going by being ‘Covid Careful’ on their premises.

Business owners have gone to a great deal of effort and expense to ensure their environments are Covid Safe for their customers. Please do your bit and make sure you are Covid safe at the shops, garages, pharmacists etc…with fellow customers and also employees. Sanitise when you enter, keep a polite distance, wear a mask and test twice weekly.

One of the main benefits from wearing a face-covering is that if you are unknowingly infected it substantially reduces the amount of virus that is emitted into an environment, and therefore reduces the risk of infecting other people. 'Think Covid' and do your bit to ensure employees do not have to self-isolate which could put their business continuity plans at risk.

The football season will be opening this weekend and I’m sure many of you are itching to get out there after watching the recent sport on television. If joining in with team sports then remember your hand hygiene and make sure you are doing lateral flow tests to protect your immediate family, teammates and your community.

If we all continue to play our part, we will all be on the winning team - and winning right now means keeping our freedoms for as long as possible.