With Covid related death rates, hospitalisations and infection numbers showing only a slight rise in the south-east, there is much anticipation of the next stage of the easing of lockdown on May 17 as this should see further relaxation of the rules governing socialising and businesses providing hospitality and trade. Full details are here.
The government’s scientific advisers are expected to advise that the easing of measures in the lockdown roadmap, now supported by event trials and the data, have not resulted in a significant spike in infections.
This, coupled with the vaccine programme and the perceived success of the lockdown, results in an government assessment that the NHS has been protected and is coping with Covid-19 related patients – and all this could mean that the next step in the route map out of lockdown is taken as planned.
Some experts remain cautious
However some experts remain cautious. Professor Ferguson of Imperial College, one of the architects of lockdown, said on Tuesday that, with some overseas travel set to be approved from May 17, mutant variants such as Indian, South African and Brazilian remain of concern.
He suggested that the period of particular concern is late summer or early autumn – “If we are going to see another wave of transmission that is when it would take place.” However he did qualify his remarks with “even if you do get infected, if you’ve been vaccinated then you are less infectious.”
The NHS advises that it is becoming more likely that a third booster vaccine programme for the vulnerable will take place in the autumn.
The programme is moving on to 40 year olds and over and appointments are being organised via text and telephone messages, the national booking service, and via telephone 119. However we know that locally there is a shortage of vaccine for this group resulting in a waiting time for appointments. We expect to hear more about this at the next NHS update in the coming week.
Meanwhile the Sussex NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is still pressing to encourage around 10% of the high risk groups (age over 50 – 1 to 9) who have either refused or been missed to get jabbed.
For anyone with Covid-type symptoms, in addition to the sources of test and trace explained last week, approved rapid flow test kits are available free by post through a government website. After ordering, they arrive within a couple of days. Do be aware that there are other private sources on the web, but most charge.
Travel and holidays
The government suggests that much of Europe and the US could move on to the UK’s “green list” for travel by June, but the precise details have yet to be announced. The list is being reviewed regularly and includes destinations from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine. At this stage travel experts advise caution if booking any overseas travel as quarantine rules can change at short notice.
The NHS backlog
This week there have been reports that it might take five years for some hospitals to catch up with the full backlog of patient care – including cancer treatment, elective surgery and mental health treatment – caused by Covid and NHS providers have warned that those English NHS trusts worst impacted by the crisis are between three and five years away from returning to pre-Covid levels.
Locally the CCG underscores the fact that the NHS is open for business and patients with health issues should seek appointments.
There are also a large number of patients who have been infected with the virus and are suffering long term multiple effects, known as long Covid. We will be raising this, with the backlog issue, with the CCG at the next meeting.
Remember – caution
Most experts agree that with more socialising and travel, the message from government that people must “behave responsibly”, and “not drop our guard”, remains very important. This is particularly so in places like Rye and district, where we are seeing visitor levels increase. There is concern that people are already behaving as if “it is all over” and that the “caution” part of government messages is being overlooked. Please remember – Hands, Face and Space and …. Fresh Air!
Image Credits: Anthony Kimber .