Covid: the next step?

Covid test kit

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.

Getting jabbed

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.

Test kits

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 .


  1. After some long term lobbying, with the MP and Mayor, for a vax facility in Rye, NHS England has asked the Ticehurst Pharmacy to see if they could mount a centre in Rye. By negotiation they have arranged to rent the main part of the Tilling Green Centre from Rye Partnership. Work is now underway to make all the arrangements to start delivering Pfizer from there later this month.

    At a meeting today with Hardik from the Ticehurst Pharmacy , we have agreed the personnel requirements and other logistics. Hardik is very keen to start but all will depend on securing the volunteers and expert support such as vaccinators.

    Patients will be arranged through the NHS website, 119. Surgeries may also be involved. There may be opportunity vaccinations available at the end of each day as Hardik is keen not to waste any vaccine.

    Other specialist logistics are being organised by Hardik including the Pfizer storage, signage and other specialist items. He will draw on his experience in running the Ticehurst vax Centre with help from his business partners in other pharmacies in the area.

    We do need volunteers please for marshals, for registration, for cleaning and for delivering the vaccine. Both retired or serving clinical staff can be trained to handle Pfizer. Vaccinators and cleaners can be paid by negotiation.

    The more volunteers we have the more we will be able to share the work. There is software for volunteer tasking and booking in.

    Voluntary groups in Rye are being approached to publicise this important community facility.

    Anthony Kimber PhD

  2. Congratulations to Anthony kimber and his team in getting a vacination post in Rye, hopefully no more travelling miles for a service that many thought should have been on our doorstep, like other towns and villages around us.

  3. To emphasise that we need marshals, recorders, vaccinators and cleaners. The last two will be paid. Full training and equipment will be provided. Any contribution will be welcome; we have dropped the minimum commitment specified in the advert.

  4. Yes thank you Dr Anthony Kimber and all your team for securing a vaccination centre in Rye! It will make a great difference for those who can’t drive and will be a lot easier for others too! However we mustn’t forget the great effort that has happened so far in getting the vaccinations out to the nation!

  5. This is indeed very welcome – we have had concerns about how the (Rye) 18-39s without transport would get to vaccination centres and to have somewhere that they can walk to is terrific (any with mobility/disability issues have already been reached in the 16-64 clinically vulnerable tranche, who are currently getting their second vaccinations). As the vaccine being given will be Pfizer, batches of which need to be used within, I think 4-5 days after defrosting, and as the numbers of 18-39s in within Rye are around 1,000 max (and a significant number of these are included in the 16-64 CV tranche), I’m wondering whether this will be a sort of ‘pop-up’ vaccination clinic as (perhaps) all the 18-39s could be done in one batch of vaccine, then having it returning some weeks later to administer second vaccinations?

  6. Well done and thank you to Anthony Kimber and to Pat Hughes and her team. Sad that it takes a someone from as far away as Ticehurst to bring such a service to Rye but thanks also to them. Why haven’t local GPs and pharmacies stepped up to provide a service to their patients – some answer instead of ongoing silence would be appreciated.

  7. Following on from Peter Jones’ comment, I really do feel that a bit of perspective is needed. When, at the turn of the year, the push to vaccinate got going, the initial target was to give first vaccinations to all those in groups 1-4 (i.e. down to 70), some 15 million people (or a quarter of the entire UK population aged over 16) by the middle of February – less than 6 weeks away. This was truly audacious and many said impossible, but as the next step in the already audacious development of the vaccines, had to be achieved if the country was to move back to normal life. Vaccination centres and clinics sprang up in an incredible range of places, from cathedrals to football clubs. Clearly large centres of population were easy to prioritise and many in areas such as our own with many small towns/villages/hamlets feared that we would be sidelined or even missed out. But we too got our mass vaccination centres – for us in rural Rother it was at Etchingham. The difficulty of achieving vaccinations on this scale is, like so much in life, down to the efficient and effective deployment of limited resources. So setting up small scale operations to deal with small local populations could not effectively achieve the target. So the collaboration of GP surgeries setting up mass vaccination (i.e. aiming to give 500 or more vaccinations daily), – 7 in rural Rother, 9 in Hastings – provided a way to get the job done within the time frame.

    Such a centre has very clear requirements, e.g. sufficient space for every one to work in the 3 phases of vaccination – ‘booking in’, vaccination, and post-jab monitoring – plus extra because of social distancing and for vaccine storage and preparation and the back office work, and for those working there to go for breaks. There are also the demands of accessibility to the site from everywhere it is serving, AND, for parking for those who are attending for vaccination and those who are working at the site.

    Etchingham, although unknown to many round here apart from as a station on the Hastings-Charing Cross line, was able to offer the best fit: its new build village hall attached to the school hall gave required space and facilities and is sited on the main road through the village which links to the A21 so access from much of the area is straightforward and, not difficult from the Rye or Northiam areas. And parking, which is a crucial factor in dealing with so many people each day – Etchingham VH’s car park has a separate entrance and exit, 36 spaces plus 4 dedicated for disabled, and some additional space for those working there (although some did have to use the car park). But it was only because of the tireless and helpful parking team that the relentless rollout of vaccinations there was possible. We found that first vaccinations generally took at least 45 minutes and with 500 a day that’s a lot of people to manage. And the team were magnificent – not only directing people into spaces but also looking out for those who needed assistance and helping with wheelchairs. They could not give us dedicated parking for our buses so each evening I texted them with the times the next day that we were arriving and numbers on each bus so that they could organise for us. Sometimes our groups went in straight away, other times we kept them on the buses and sent them in as and when.

    The last in groups 1-4 on went on 10th February, and the rest of that week was a mop-up, getting to the housebound, etc (here in Rye the RMC ran a mop up clinic on Saturday 13th for patients of both Rye practices). But here in rural Rother, the target was met, and the following week we moved on to groups 5-7. The 7 GP practices have worked tirelessly throughout – 7 days a week in that first phase, getting people booked in AND working at the centre: doctors, nurses, receptionists – ALL went at various times. Our GP practices have just got on with getting the vaccinations done. And this has continued with the second vaccinations – our practice receptionists/administrators worked through the Easter weekend (did have Easter Sunday off) getting people booked for the following week and doctors and nurses were there at the Hastings Centre putting in 12 hour shifts. I don’t think that any answer needs to be given – what has been achieved says it all.

  8. Well said Pat ,I have experience of the effort put in by GP staff and the Community bus crew, to achieve what has been done so far is a monumental effort , well done to all involved.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here