Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health advise residents on newly identified Variant of Concern

Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health are urging people to continue to keep safe and do what they can to help reduce transmission as restrictions are eased, in light of the new Variant of Concern being found in the North West.  

The advice from Directors of Public Health comes as a small number of COVID cases of the b.1.617 variant (first identified in India) have been discovered in the region.

Local public health teams will be working closely with Public Health England and other partners to provide all the local knowledge and expertise they can to support any work that is required to identify and contain the variant.

Thara Raj, Warrington’s Director of Public Health, said: “It is good to see us move to the next step of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown from today, however an increase in detection of the b.1.617 variant shows that COVID hasn’t gone away.

“This variant is thought to be more transmissible but there is currently no evidence to suggest it affects people more seriously or is resistant to the vaccines currently being rolled out across the UK.

“Vaccination, testing and everyone following the rules on social distancing, wearing face coverings and hand washing are all still key to preventing the spread of the virus. People should also take care when visiting friends and family indoors when it is permitted from this week.”

Ian Ashworth, current Chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health Board said: “We have now seen Cheshire and Merseyside reach over two million vaccinations which is a great achievement.

“However, we shouldn’t take the successful roll out of the vaccination programme as permission to stop following the rules, as we still have people left to vaccinate. It could take just a few outbreaks across a few communities to derail the fantastic progress we’ve made so far.

“It is vital that people go along to get their first and second vaccination jabs when they are offered them. You can now get the COVID-19 vaccine if you’re aged 38 or over, or if your 38th birthday is between now and 1 July.”

You can book your vaccine appointment at a local vaccination centre. It’s quick and simple to book – contact your GP practice, visit the national booking service at nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or call 119.

Rapid symptom-free testing is available to all residents in Warrington, whether they have been vaccinated or not, to help stop the spread of the virus. The lateral flow tests (LFTs) are available online for collection from participating pharmacies or at any of our six testing sites across the borough. Anyone who gets a positive result from a rapid symptom-free test can book a confirmatory NHS (PCR) test by visiting nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

Directors are also keen to stress how important it is for anyone with coronavirus symptoms, including a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss of sense of taste or smell, to self-isolate immediately and book an NHS PCR test by calling 119 or visiting nhs.uk/coronavirus.

For those who need support during this difficult time, please visit kindtoyourmind.org which has details of 24/7 crisis helplines and resources to help with mental wellbeing.

For more information on coronavirus in Warrington, visit: warrington.gov.uk/coronavirus.

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