It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and the best gift you can give this year is to help protect your loved ones and the NHS and other essential services from becoming overwhelmed over the festive period.
To prevent 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year' turning into 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', residents are being urged to make sure the only thing they're giving this year is presents and not coronavirus by carrying out three simple things which will 'help sleigh Covid'.
Infection rates remain high across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and earlier this week the Government agreed to extend our Enhanced Response Area status until Christmas Eve because of low vaccination rates in some areas, and the extreme pressure that NHS services are under.
We are waiting for clear scientific evidence about how our existing vaccines will protect against the new Omicron variant - or whether it is more severe than current strains - however, we do know is that it appears to spread from person to person more quickly.
This has led to the Government announcing a move to 'Plan B' to help stop the spread of the virus. This includes an extension of where people should wear face coverings from today (Friday 10th December) - becoming mandatory in places such as, cinemas and theatres as well as in shops and on public transport, a return to working from home where ever possible from Monday (13th December), and NHS covid passes (or a negative LFT) needed for entry into nightclubs or large venues from next Wednesday (15th December), subject to parliamentary approval.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have also been granted an extension of their Enhanced Area Status for three weeks to build on encouraging progress. This will involve includes continued increased intervention in schools until the end of term - including identification of close and household contacts and enabling daily rapid LFD testing. including in primary school settings at parent/guardian discretion This remains a vital measure in the area where 42% of all infections are currently in 0-17 age group.
So to make sure you enjoy the holiday season safely in the company of loved ones without passing on the virus and make sure children's classes can re-open after the holidays and your rubbish will get collected, residents are being asked to carry out 'Three Simple Things'. These are to get vaccinated, test before socialising and protect others through actions such as meeting only in well ventilated places and regularly washing your hands.
By being Covid cautious, this will help to flatten a New Year peak and push potential increase in infections further into the spring, when essential services will be better placed to cope. This is even more vital this year with flu rates expected to be higher than normal due to fewer contacts between people last winter.
Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, said: "Christmas is a special time and, after last year, we understand everyone wants the chance to celebrate with loved ones. We do now need to be cautious with the advent of Omicron and our three simple things, which include the government's new rules, can help prevent the spread of this variant. This really is an awful virus that can make people seriously ill. I know first-hand how poorly Covid can make you feel even if you have it mildly.
"Please don't put older and vulnerable relatives at risk and think about those working on the frontline and the strain they face every winter - which will only get worse if more people need hospital treatment or the staff themselves get Covid and can't work. Our three simple things of Vaccinate, Test and Protect will help prevent this."
Cambridgeshire County Council's Director for Public Health Jyoti Atri added: "We want everyone to enjoy themselves over the Christmas period as it's a great time to unwind. But the rapid spread of Omicron, its unknown severity in terms of illness and how well our vaccines will protect against it, means that we all need to make slight changes to our normal Christmas traditions. This is to make sure the only thing you're giving this year is presents, rather than Covid."
"In the new year, we need our hospitals and doctors' surgeries to have capacity to treat everyone, we want our schools to be open for all our children, and we need staff well and available to protect vulnerable adults and children, grit the roads and collect the rubbish. This means we all need to do our bit to make sure our celebrations don't ruin the new year."
The 'Three Simple Things' people can do over the festive period are to:
• Vaccinate - Get jabs when offered, whether this be Covid vaccines, boosters or flu
• Test - Take a rapid test before meeting up with others. If it's positive, take a PCR test and isolate while you wait, as well as if the PCR test is positive.
• Protect - Meet others in well ventilated spaces, practice good hygiene like washing your hands, work from home where possible and always wear a face covering according to the government rules.
Other practical actions people can take which will help prevent local services becoming overwhelmed and the holidays being ruined include planning smaller Christmas and New Year's parties, meeting outside where possible (for example, taking a festive walk), and keeping windows open.
Residents carrying out the 'Three Simple Things' approach are also being urged to encourage friends and family to follow their example, and they will be able to download an infographic which they can post on social media and share with others.
Lateral flow rapid tests are for people without symptoms. The tests are free, easy to do, can be taken at home and results are available within 30 minutes. To find out where you can get yours, visit: https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/healthcare/public-health/coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-rapid-community-testing.
Anyone with symptoms, or who gets a positive result on their rapid test, should get a PCR test immediately and isolate while they wait for the result. To get a PCR test, visit: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
Information on local Covid vaccine walk-in centres can be found at: https://www.thevaccinators.co.uk/.
The latest government guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-sets-out-new-measures-as-omicron-variant-identified-in-uk-27-november-2021.
Article date: December 2021