In the last week (18 – 24 December) there were 554 new cases of COVID-19 in Solihull, a rate of 256 per 100,000 people, an increase of 26.7% compared with the previous week. The average area in England had a rate of 267. During 2020, 375 people from Solihull have died from COVID and 7,625 have had a positive test result – or 3.5% of people living in the borough. Although many more people may have had COVID and not had symptoms, it’s clear that many people are still at risk from the virus.
We are continuing to see very extreme pressure on our hospital system right across the country as well as within our region. The new variant of the virus which is in many parts of the country has been accelerating this but our increase is also down to more people mixing and out and about in the run-up to Christmas. We are particularly concerned by large increases in rates in 16-29 and 30-44 year olds during the few days before Christmas.
Vaccination continues to roll out, with the announcement that another vaccination has been approved for use in the UK today. It is great news that some of our care home staff and residents have now received their first dose: I would like to thank the many health and care staff who have been working throughout Christmas on this incredible endeavour. But we are still a long way off from getting our most vulnerable residents fully protected by vaccination. We also know that hospitals continue to treat very poorly patients in younger age groups who will not be vaccinated until well on into 2021.
Until the vaccine roll out is much more advanced, we have no option but to do everything we can to reduce the very extreme situation in our hospitals and the number of people who are very seriously affected by the disease. Treatments for COVID are better but we are still seeing people locally dying every week from the virus. Many people will have a very long road to recovery and we are learning more each day about the impact of ‘Long COVID’ including on previously fit, healthy, young people.
It is for this reason that we now need to take urgent action to once again bring numbers down and why Solihull has now been placed, with many other parts of the country in Tier 4 (with effect from Thursday 31 December).
The key things to note in Tier 4 are as follows, (the full guidance is available here):
- You must not leave or be outside of your home or garden except for a specific purpose: food, medical reasons, education or work
- You cannot meet other people indoors, including over the New Year period, unless you live with them, or they are part of your support bubble
- Outdoors you can only meet one person from another household
- Do not travel unless necessary
- Work from home if you can
We do not know how long we will remain in Tier 4, but the more steps we can take to stop the spread of the virus, the fewer people will be ill. This means not just following Tier 4 rules but really sticking closely with all the measures that protect us and the people we care about. Even if you can do something, are you sure you’re free of infection and could the person next to you in a shop or at work be passing the virus on without knowing it? Would it be worth it if you did give someone else COVID particularly now that we have a vaccine?
So here’s what you can do:
- Remember the symptoms: a new high temperature (you don’t need to measure this but check if you feel hot on your chest or your back), a new continuous cough or you can’t taste or smell things or they smell or taste different to usual.
- If you are concerned you may have COVID, get tested. More information can be found here including how to book a test if you don’t have symptoms.
- Stay at home for 10 days from the start of symptoms – even if you feel better.
- Self-isolate for 10 days if you are told to by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app. This is a legal requirement for people who are a close contact of cases and stops the virus spreading if you self-isolate as instructed.
- Continue with hands, face and space: done properly and by everyone this is a key part of our defence.
Thousands of people in the borough have followed these crucial instructions, without this, our rates would be higher and more lives would have been lost. Thank you for sticking with it.