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Living with COVID-19 and life after 19 July-Joint statement

Coronavirus 16/07/2021

Cheshire and Merseyside Directors of Public Health Statement

Joint statement from the Directors of Public Health in Cheshire and Merseyside on the national changes to COVID-19 restrictions on 19th July

  • Directors of Public Health in Cheshire and Merseyside’s nine local council areas – Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens, Warrington and Wirral – are issuing advice for residents and businesses
  • Alongside take up of the COVID-19 vaccination, the local public health advice is to continue as much as possible with the use of face coverings, social distancing, good hand hygiene and regular testing
  • Continuing already existing behaviours will decrease the likelihood of a dangerous and potentially vaccine-resistant mutation of the virus, protect unvaccinated children and lower the number of people who fall ill with COVID-19 and develop ‘long COVID’

Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health, working together as the Champs Public Health Collaborative, are asking those living and working in the area to go above and beyond the minimum required, in the light of rising COVID-19 infections locally and changes to the national COVID-19 restrictions.

People are being asked to take their individual and collective role to reduce the transmission of the virus incredibly seriously, and not see the 19th July as a reason to stop all behaviours that have helped to reduce the spread of the virus over the past 16 months, especially when in close contact with others.

This is very important, as infection rates are high in the area and historically, the North West of England has been more impacted by the virus than other areas, due to structural inequalities. This means recovery from the pandemic will take longer unless residents continue to take steps to minimise harm right now.

This advice will also support local businesses and the wider economy, as increased transmission of the virus will result in major disruptions if staff are unable to work due to being unwell with COVID-19 and legally required to self-isolate.

Full statement from Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health:

We absolutely understand the feeling of our residents who want nothing more than to get back to normal, but it is our role as Directors of Public Health to be realistic about the future of this pandemic and do everything we can to protect the health of our population.

The early evidence suggests that the hugely successful mass vaccination programme has weakened the link between infection of risk of hospitalisation and loss of life, which is incredibly encouraging, but that unfortunately is not the end of this story. It is clear that a massive rise in infections will impact our unvaccinated children and teenagers, those who have not been vaccinated, either due to personal choice or another medical reason, or those who have been vaccinated but fall within the lower percentage of people who are not protected.

Another very real danger is the risk of yet another mutation of the virus that is both easier to catch and could render our current vaccines powerless, essentially taking us back to square one.

We are urging those living and working in Cheshire and Merseyside to:

  • Get fully vaccinated – it’s shown to be safe and effective against the virus, including new variants and is the best way to keep yourself from getting seriously ill. It also reduces the risk of passing the virus on to someone else
  • Be kind and considerate of others who may be feeling extremely nervous about the further lifting of restrictions
  • Continue wearing face coverings in crowded indoor areas where social distancing cannot be followed, such as supermarkets and on public transport, in health and social care settings, such as hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries, and where it would make others feel more comfortable
  • Continue social distancing by not unnecessarily being in crowded areas and continuing to work from home if possible
  • Continue to practice good hand hygiene, in particular hand washing
  • Keep getting tested – everyone should undertake twice weekly rapid symptom free testing using Lateral Flow Tests (LFT). If people experience generally associated symptoms such as a headache, a stuffed or runny nose, tiredness or weakness, aches and pains, sore throat or diarrhoea, they should take an LFT and follow up with a PCR test if the LFT test is positive. If people have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss or change to their sense of smell or taste they must stay at home and book a PCR test. Around one in three people with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms, but can still infect others - so getting tested regularly will help slow the spread.
  • Self-isolate if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, especially if you work in a high-risk setting

We are urging businesses and workplaces in Cheshire and Merseyside to:

  • Continue to adhere to COVID-19 working safely guidance, including provision of washing facilities and proper ventilation with external fresh air
  • Continue to engage with the Test, Trace and Isolate process, and increase testing if your workplace has had an outbreak
  • Encourage your employees to get tested if they suspect they have COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolate if positive
  • Encourage your employees to have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered

It is difficult to say when this way of living will end, but we do know that we are likely to have a difficult winter ahead of us, which means it is likely we will need to follow this advice until spring next year.

For many this will be unwelcome, but ultimately, it is necessary. Throughout this pandemic, we have witnessed from our population extraordinary levels of personal resilience, as well as kindness and thoughtful consideration towards others, and it is with this in mind that we ask you to continue your efforts in being strong, being kind and being safe.