COVID ADVICE: How Solihull residents can keep safe as lockdown eases
Increased testing and warnings about the dangers of stale air are seen as key to preventing Covid-19 once again running out of control in Solihull.
New infections in the the borough have fallen to the lowest levels seen since September – with the latest weekly figure standing at 28 cases per 100,000.
Although this is still ahead of the English average of 19 and public health officials will be watching closely for any sign of a new spike – having urged people to remain cautious.
The coming weeks will be a key test as to how much the dramatic decline in cases – numbers had passed 500 per 100,000 in January – has been due to strict lockdown rules and how much because of vaccines.
The council is mindful how quickly the situation started to deteriorate last September – although there are hopes that Covid jabs will make resurgence on that sort of scale impossible.
Cllr Karen Grinsell, Solihull Council’s deputy leader, said many more residents were likely to have first-hand experience of coronavirus compared with last autumn – with more than 20,000 confirmed cases in the last six months.
“It feels closer to home,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
“More people know somebody who has had it or have lost a loved one, so it has become much more real for people.”
While it is hoped that inoculations will help reduce the risk of a third wave – all the borough’s over 50s have now been offered a first dose – other messages are being pushed hard to contain future outbreaks.
In particular the council is keen to encourage twice weekly tests for Solihull residents without symptoms, with free lateral flow kits now available to everyone over 18.
Testing has been at the centre of the council’s public health messaging for months, with an appeal to get symptoms checked added to the local version of the Hands, Face, Space slogan introduced nationwide last year.
Although the increased availability of the rapid turnaround kits also opens the door to allow more people who don’t feel unwell – and risk unwittingly passing on the virus – to be swabbed.
As we reported last month, tests are available via a mobile unit, community test sites and now through home delivery and pharmacies.
“Some people might think ‘why do I need to have a test – I feel fine’, but it isn’t just about you, it’s about protecting other people and protecting your family, your friends and the community,” said Cllr Grinsell.
As many more businesses start to reopen, there is also likely to be a much greater emphasis on the importance of fresh air.
As the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) reported earlier this year, ministers had faced calls to ramp up warnings about the dangers of poor ventilation.
Smaller particles of the virus – known as aerosols – can linger in the air for hours and pose a particular risk in stuffy rooms. This is why outdoor spaces, where molecules quickly disperse, are seen as much less hazardous.
Last month, the importance of replacing air and avoiding the virus accumulating indoors saw the government add “Fresh Air” to its headline message on Covid precautions – alongside face masks, social distancing and hand-washing.
Cllr Grinsell said this would play a key part alongside the other guidelines and believes it will be easier to make open windows a more regular part of people’s routine now the winter had passed.
“Adding in that extra layer of protection … having an air flow circulating, really helps alongside the other measures.”
Where to get a rapid turnaround test:
Over 18s can order a free lateral flow pack, with seven tests inside, to their door from this Gov.uk website.
They can also be collected from a pharmacy near to you, with no need to order in advance.
A map of participating chemists is available here – https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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