By Natalie Bloomer
So-called ‘freedom day’ will be a cause for celebration for some but for others the lifting of Covid restrictions means more anxiety.
Despite cases soaring across the country and health officials warning of the risks of dropping our guard, the government today lifts the majority of Covid restrictions.
Over the weekend new daily cases in the country broke the 50,000 mark, a level not seen since January.
The health secretary Sajid Javid announced on Saturday he had tested positive for the virus. In a politically dangerous move, the prime minister and chancellor initially said they would not self-isolate after being ‘pinged’ by the test and trace app due to having contact with Javid. Within three hours of that announcement a quick U-turn was done and both confirmed they would indeed be self-isolating.
The situation locally
In Northamptonshire the last week of data showed an increase in positive cases of 20 percent compared to the week before with 1,349 new cases being reported in the county.
The week up to July 8 saw an infection rate of 176.4 per 100,000 population which is still significantly lower than the national average but there are hotspots in some areas. South Northamptonshire has the highest rate which is double that of the rest of the county at 310.1 per 100,000.
Northamptonshire health experts said on Friday data suggests the rate of growth could be starting to slow down. Most new cases have been seen in the 10-19 and 20-29 age range with seven out of eight outbreaks in the county being within an education setting. The hope is that the summer holidays will help to reduce that growth.
Health chiefs pointed out the number of people in hospital with Covid compared to the infection rate is relatively low. As of Friday there were 24 people in hospital in Northamptonshire with one of those in critical care. The age of patients varied from a teenager to a person in their 90s. Director of nursing at Northampton General Hospital Trust Sheran Oke said they believe most of those in hospital had not been vaccinated.
Programme director of the Covid vaccination team in Northamptonshire Chris Pallot said on Friday that while uptake of the vaccination is very good overall, there were some areas such as Northampton Town Centre, parts of Corby and a small area in Daventry where health chiefs are working with the local authority to encourage more people to come forward for their jab. He also said coverage hadn’t been as good in the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups compared to other ages.
Director of public health in Northamptonshire Lucy Wightman said:
“Despite the freedoms being returned on Monday, Step 4 by no means marks the end of the need for caution and restraint. The government accepts that further cases, hospitalisations and deaths will occur as the country learns to live with COVID-19 and while cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain watchful.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to take a rapid flow test twice weekly to check if you are infectious and behave in a COVID- cautious and COVID safe way around friends, family and the wider community. Be aware of people who are clinically vulnerable and settings that are higher risk like indoor crowded venues, public transport and geographical areas of high risk.”
New rules and guidance
Socialising: There are no limits on socialising from today, however people are asked to take extra care when meeting people from outside their household.
Businesses: All remaining businesses can reopen from today but will need to continue using the Covid app.
Education: Students will no longer need to be in bubbles but lateral flow testing will continue in schools and colleges.
Work: The government is no longer asking people to work from home where they can, however the return to the workplace should be gradual.
Masks: While masks are no longer a legal requirement some shops and transport companies will still require you to wear one. Northamptonshire police officers will continue to wear masks and they will still be required for anybody attending a healthcare setting.
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