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DIRECTORS OF PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISE RESIDENTS ON NEWLY IDENTIFIED VARIANT OF CONCERN

Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health are pleased to see restrictions easing following a drop in cases of COVID-19, however, in light of the new Variant of Concern (b.1.617, first identified in India) being found in some areas of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and now Sefton in Merseyside, they urge people to continue to keep safe and do what they can to help reduce transmission.

The advice from Directors of Public Health, who are leading the local public health response to COVID, comes as a small number of COVID cases of the b.1.617 variant have been discovered locally. The Directors of Public Health 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.

Ian Ashworth, current Chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health Board said, “It is good to see us move along the Government’s roadmap, 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 all of us following the rules on distancing, face-covering and handwashing are all still key to preventing the spread of COVID. People also need to take care when visiting friends and family indoors. Parents and carers should also continue to wear face coverings around schools.

“We have now seen Cheshire and Merseyside reach over two million vaccinations which is a great achievement and reassuring. However, we shouldn’t take the successful roll out of the vaccine as permission to stop following the rules, as we still have not vaccinated the required number of people to ensure a high level of protection across the entire population. 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 1st July. You can book your appointment online or by phone.

“And, whether vaccinated or not, it’s still important that those going to work or out and about regularly continue to take the rapid tests, which are free and widely available online, at certain testing centres and from pharmacies, twice a week.”

Halton’s Director of Public Health, Eileen O’Meara added:

“Monday will see us able to meet indoors with our family and friends for the first time in months, which will be wonderful. We’ll also be able to do other things we may have missed, like going to the cinema, taking our children to a play centre or eating indoors at a restaurant.

“We’ve been able to take this next step because of the efforts of our community in helping to bring the virus under control.

“But we know that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away and that the b.1.617 variant is in our region. So, while enjoying these greater freedoms, we must continue to play our part in controlling the virus and keeping variants in check.

“We are doing brilliantly in rolling out vaccine across Halton, but it is really important that we keep that going and that all age groups come forward for both doses of their vaccine when contacted.

“We also need everyone to keep doing their twice weekly rapid tests and remembering to upload results, even if it’s negative. And, don’t forget if you do get a positive result from your rapid test, you must isolate and get a follow up PCR test straight way.

“Doing all of these things will ensure that we keep on track to getting back to a more normal life.”

Anyone who gets a positive result from a rapid test can book a PCR test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.

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

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

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