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Stay safe by choosing to follow COVID-19 guidelines

15 July 2021

COVID-19 cases are rising across Norfolk, so we must not drop our guard after some legal restrictions end on Monday.

That’s the message from Norfolk County Council, which is launching a new campaign – IChoose – to encourage people to maintain measures that will keep people safe.

County council leader, Councillor Andrew Proctor, said: “There is no doubt we are in a better position than in the first and second waves, due to the success of the vaccination programme - but that does not mean we should drop our guard.

“The Prime Minister now wants us to exercise personal choice, which I totally support. That’s why today, we launch a campaign – IChoose - to encourage everyone to exercise that choice wisely.
“Please keep taking precautions to help protect yourselves and others and to keep safe. I’ve already made these choices, to protect others – I hope you will do the same.”

The council’s advice is:

  • Continue familiar prevention behaviours such as hand washing and wearing a face covering in public indoor spaces
  • Continue to meet outdoors where possible and ensure indoor places are well ventilated
  • Carry out symptom-free testing two times per week, including for secondary school aged children. Free test kits are available from libraries and pharmacies

Director of public health, Dr Louise Smith, said: “We are in a third wave and are seeing around 200 cases a day.

“Even for younger people and people who have been vaccinated, COVID-19 can still make you feel ill – and one in 10 of those who are infected can go on to get long COVID-19.

“Whilst legal restrictions are being reduced, the underlying messages remain the same. To protect yourself take preventative actions such as sanitising hands, choosing outdoors and ventilation. Please participate in testing to identify cases early and prevent spread. Positive cases and contacts are still required to self-isolate.

“We are already considering scenarios for how we could be affected in the winter and the possibility of new variants.

“That is why it’s so important to make sensible choices – including using free test kits, twice a week and continuing to use the NHS COVID-19 app.”

Latest COVID-19 information

Current case rates

Case rates in Norfolk are just over 140 cases per 100,000 and continue to increase rapidly in all of our districts. At the moment, the majority of cases are in young adults, although we have seen some increases across all age groups. The number of people in hospital has also increased, but currently remains low.
Our contact tracing data are suggesting that we have seen increases associated with education settings, and with hospitality settings. We are seeing very few outbreaks in care homes, and smaller numbers of outbreaks in workplaces compared to previous periods.

  • National, regional and local case rates for the week ending 09/07/21, and comparisons with the week ending 02/07/21, are as follows:
    • Area Name Case rate per 100,000 all ages Case rate per 100,000 all ages previous week Change in all age case rate (%) Case rate per 100,000 60+ Case rate per 100,000 60+ previous week Change in 60+ case rate (%)
    • Norfolk 144.2 59.7 141.5 18.2 12.1 50.4
    • East of England 238.5 146.4 62.9 39.0 24.0 62.5
    • England 341.5 252.7 35.1 66.9 44.5 50.3
    • Breckland 82.9 46.4 78.5 13.6 11.3 20.4
    • Broadland 155.2 57.3 170.7 23.7 18.9 25.4
    • Great Yarmouth 243.6 61.4 296.7 32.6 29.3 11.3
    • King's Lynn and West Norfolk 132.1 45.6 189.9 8.0 2.0 300.0
    • North Norfolk 51.5 36.2 42.1 7.0 13.9 -49.6
    • Norwich 216.3 102.4 111.1 33.0 14.6 126.0
    • South Norfolk 134.9 63.9 111.1 21.1 2.3 817.4
  • The average number of daily new cases in the last 7 days is 224.1, compared to 115.7 for the previous 7 days (93.7% increase)
  • The total number of people tested for Covid-19 in the last 7 days is 32510, compared to 30023 for the previous 7 days (8.3% increase)
  • As of 13/07/212, there were 13 people in hospital, and 3 patients in critical care
  • Setting-specific summary for 14/07/21 is as follows:
    • Across all settings there are 49 open outbreaks, compared to 40 outbreaks 7 days ago (22.5% increase)
    • Across care providers there are 10 open outbreaks, compared to 9 outbreaks 7 days ago (11.1% increase). There have been 15 cases associated with care homes3 in the 7 days ending 09/07/21 (staff and residents), compared to 16 for the previous 7 days (-6.2% decrease)
    • Across businesses and workplace settings there are 14 open outbreaks, compared to 9 outbreaks 7 days ago (55.6% increase)
    • Across education settings there are 23 open outbreaks, compared to 20 outbreaks 7 days ago (15% increase)
    • Across health and emergency settings there are 2 open outbreaks, compared to 2 outbreaks 7 days ago (0% change)

Key questions

Do you think people will be confused?

The Government has been very clear about its rationale and how mandatory rules have been replaced by guidelines. We are clear that people should continue to follow the guidelines.

What will you, the director of public health, choose to do?

I will choose to protect myself with hand washing, choosing less crowded and outdoor venues, wearing a face mask in public venues and continuing testing at home. I have had my two vaccine jabs.

What should all individuals do?

  • Get vaccinated
  • Continue 2 x weekly rapid tests and ask for a PCR test if you have symptoms
  • Participate in HS Test & Trace
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public places such as public transport
  • Respect and comply with the rules business put in place when you are in their premises
  • If you test positive you must self-isolate and participate in NHS Test & Trace
  • If you are informed that you are a contact of a case, you must self-isolate

Do you think people who stop wearing masks are being reckless?

It’s about personal choice and, of course, some people did not wear masks for health reasons. All I can advise is that masks do play a role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in crowded, indoor settings and so I would encourage people to keep wearing them as a courtesy to protect others.

What impact will the end of restrictions have on cases in Norfolk?

The chief medical officer has been clear that every step of unlocking involves a rise in cases -the key factor on this occasion is that the majority of adults have been at least partially vaccinated which may mean they have a milder illness

Are you predicting more hospitalisations and deaths?

Yes, the recent rise in cases is likely to lead to more people being admitted to hospital however this is unlikely to be the same levels as in previous waves of infection.

How many outbreaks are you dealing with at the moment and what are the main types of setting that are affected?

The number of outbreaks we are dealing with is rising and is now around 50.

We have seen increases associated with education settings, and with hospitality settings such as pubs. We are seeing very few outbreaks in care homes, and smaller numbers of outbreaks in workplaces compared to previous periods.

What’s your advice to county council staff?

We continue to follow the guidelines, so people continue to work from home where they can and, if they need to attend offices, to wear masks as they move around.

The Government is advising a gradual return to offices and we are moving to a position where more people will be back in offices for two days a week from September. Our return to the office will be gradual and in line with prevention advice on hand sanitising, ventilation, distancing and wearing face masks.

What about council services?

In terms of our services, we will be reviewing these over the coming weeks and where it is safe to do so, we will prioritise relaxing some measures in those areas that:

  • Support vulnerable people
  • Support the economy
  •  Are key public facing services

How many people have long COVID-19 in Norfolk and what are the implications of that?

It is very early days – about 1 to 1.5% of COVID-19 cases appear to lead to Long COVID-19.

To date about 42,000 people in Norfolk have had COVID-19. That suggests over 400 people could be affected in the county.

Where do you expect to be in a year’s time? Will you still be dealing with COVID-19?

Yes. We do not expect that we can eliminate COVID-19. We hope that the waves of high numbers of COVID-19 cases will have ended, but we do expect we will see continuing cases and occasional outbreaks that will require a public health response.

Care workers have until October to be vaccinated or they could lose their jobs. How many haven’t been vaccinated so far and what’s your message to them?

Around 10% haven’t been vaccinated which is a small proportion and the vaccination programme is still ongoing. I would encourage everyone to take the vaccine when it’s offered – there’s widespread experience now that the benefits outweigh any short-term side effects experienced by a minority of people, like feeling ill for a day.

What should care providers do?

For care settings all infection control measures, including the use of PPE for the delivery of care will need to continue. It is strongly recommended that all care providers require the compulsory use of face coverings for anyone working or visiting within their setting.

What’s your message to clinically extremely vulnerable people, who may feel anxious about the end of restrictions? What support is in place for them?

It is important to respect and be considerate of those who may wish to take a more cautious approach.

With Government is moving away from legal restrictions we still recommend that, if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you take extra precautions to protect yourself, such as:

  • wearing face coverings indoors and in crowded places
  • getting vaccinated
  • washing your hands regularly & avoid touching your face
  • meeting outside if possible
  • keeping rooms well ventilated if you meet inside
  • practicing social distancing
  • asking friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting
  • avoiding going to busy places

We understand that the ending of the restrictions may cause you concern and it may be difficult for you.

We want you to know that you are not alone and there is still help and support available, should you need it.

This includes help with accessing food and medicines as well as support for loneliness, by either contacting your district council or Norfolk County Council on 0344 8008020.

What is your message for specific groups?

  • Event organisers – encourage them to use the COVID-19 Pass – evidence of vaccination or negative test results.
  • Schools – bubbles end on 19 July but cases still need contact tracing. Children attending organised groups or summer schools are asked to continue regular testing, and we would encourage parents staff and all other students to keep testing (as with everyone else).
  • Employers – the Government is advising that staff currently working at home return to office working gradually. Health and safety regulations remain in place.
  • Holiday-makers – you can now travel to amber list countries and do not need to self-isolate on return if you are symptom free and have not been in contact with a case and you are double vaccinated or under 18. All other travel controls remain in place.

What next?

We anticipate that there will be further changes to the rules in August to change the approach to contact tracing for adults that have been double jabbed and for children but these have not been confirmed at this stage.

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