Torbay’s health chief has warned people in the bay not to be complacent and “trivialise” Covid-19 despite the lifting of many restrictions across the country.
Guy Henderson www.devonlive.com
Speaking as all remaining legal Covid restrictions were removed in England, nearly two years after the first rules were introduced, he said rates of infection in the bay were still “very high”.
People are no longer legally required to self-isolate if they test positive for Covid – although they are still advised to do so.
But they should carry on wearing face-masks and washing their hands often.
In his latest video message, Torbay’s director of public health Dr Lincoln Sargeant said: “The policy has now shifted to living with Covid.
“Cases in Torbay have begun to fall, and all of our data are pointing to the fact that this fall is genuine.
“However, despite the fact that rates are falling, they still remain very high.”
The latest figures show that there are 580 new cases per 100,000 people in Torbay, and 1,000 new cases per 100,000 people in the “peak” age group for infections, those aged from 30 to 39.
“With high background rates the chances that you might come across someone who is infected, and if you are not careful become infected yourself, remain significant,” he added.
While the Omicron variant is milder than the previous Delta strain, it should still be respected, said Dr Sargeant.
“Omicron causes severe illness, particularly among those who are unvaccinated.
“We should not trivialise this disease or feel that somehow it has gone away. It is not just another cold, and the data do suggest that it does have a greater impact than normal seasonal flu.”
Dr Sargeant said public health measures such as regular handwashing would still be relevant, and were already contributing to lower-than-normal levels of traditional winter viruses such as flu and norovirus.
He went on: “While the background rates are still high, it does make good public health sense – and a good sense of courtesy, that face coverings are used in enclosed spaces, particularly indoors and particularly where it is crowded.
“As rates come down we may want to re-evaluate that, but it seems to make good sense.”
He said there were still a number of people in Torbay who had not been vaccinated at all, and a greater number who had not yet had a booster.
“There are people in our population who are clinically vulnerable with conditions which weaken their immune systems,” he said.
“These people will need to be more cautious when they begin to interact with others.
“It is important that we are respectful and mindful that there are others who we come into contact with who are cautious for good reason.
“We should not do anything that would inadvertently put them at risk of infection.
“It is important that we keep ourselves reminded of the good practices that will continue to protect us and protect others in Torbay.”