Since last weekend, against a backdrop of around 2,000 new daily infections (ONS figures) in the UK over the last 7 days – the highest number of new cases since late May – there have been strong messages from chief medical officers that people must “take the virus more seriously”. One forecasted a “bumpy ride” if the widely publicised mitigations are not applied.
The message comes at a time when several newly opened schools in Kent and Surrey have reported infections, with students moving back into isolation. However, the infection number for this part of the south east remains low. Rother at 4 per 100,000 for the week compares favourably with the England average of 14 per 100,000 for the week. In south Kent, rates vary between 3 per 100,000 for Ashford, to 9 per 100,000 for Folkestone. Hastings has seen a slight rise to 12 per 100,000 for the week, with three pubs closed because of visits by people who have tested positive. It should be noted that plotting infection in tourist areas is problematic because infections are listed against home addresses.
Nationally, with more young people in the 17 to 21 age bracket testing positive, the health secretary has put out a general but stark warning: “Don’t kill your gran”. After months of restrictions and with many young people heading off to college and university, there has apparently been a rise in numbers socialising in groups. Despite not suffering ill effects themselves, they risk passing the virus on to their elderly relatives.
The increase in risks and fear of second peak, has prompted changes to the law governing social gatherings from Monday, 14 September. From Monday, gatherings of more than six people anywhere, indoors or outdoors, in England will be illegal. The rules will not apply to large households, schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports. There will be fines for non compliance.
With the early prospect of winter flu (symptoms similar to the virus) and the full impact of a return to school and university as yet unclear, many vulnerable people, who have been supported by Rye Mutual Aid, are braced for any serious increase in infection rates.
On the radio this week there have been reports of the adverse impact of lockdown on mental health and peoples’ attitude. Many young people are said to be affected, although judging by reports from some shops, pubs and restaurants, adult behaviour is also affected. ”Restaurant Rage” is suggested as a new phenomenon, with anecdotes of recent incidents in Rye.
Because of the recent changes, I hesitate to report the latest position on quarantine requirements for those returning from overseas but for those planning to go abroad, they are published on gov.uk.
The health secretary has just reminded of the government’s Covid-19 handling strategy, with the first line of defence being social distancing, followed by testing and tracing, and then local action. This strategy was further explained by medical officers as one of “aggressive test and trace process”, with isolation for those proving positive, coupled with the need for considerate human behaviour (face coverings in enclosed spaces, social separation and hand sanitisation). Without a vaccine, these are seen as the only ways to reduce transmission. In Rye and district, RMA continues with its distribution of masks both locally and to less affluent communities abroad.
REACT has been asked this week about local test and trace arrangements. Rother Council advises that Covid-19 tests, for those with symptoms or suspect that they have been contact with the virus, can be booked through the NHS web site. Rother Council is looking for a site in Rye (and one in Camber) for a mobile testing unit, although this might only be a short deployment. The closest local testing site, as they are now called, is Bexhill, therefore Rye residents wishing a test, may want to choose the “test at home” by post option.
As a reminder of the main symptoms of Covid 19:
- high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (no need to measure)
- new, continuous cough – coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (may be worse than any usual cough)
- loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital if you have any of these symptoms. Get a test and isolate at home until you get your result.
The Wellcome Trust director had just said: “The next four to six weeks as we reopen schools and we start to try to get the economy going again – which is just so critical – are going to be absolutely pivotal to the sort of autumn and winter we have. I am very supportive of the restrictions coming in and sincerely hope they are going to be enough.”
It is clear that there remains a fine balance between the application of restrictions to control the virus and moves to reach a new normal.
Image Credits: Anthony Kimber .