Christmas update from Dr Kathryn Cobain

Dr Kathryn Cobain Published Monday, 21st December 2020

Christmas update from Dr Kathryn Cobain

I know many of you will have found this weekend’s news upsetting and disappointing.

Before I set out the new restrictions and explain them further, I’d like to ask you to act immediately and do the following;

  • Please assume the new variation of Covid-19 is here in Worcestershire.
  • Think again about your Christmas plans, do you REALLY need to see others on Christmas day?
  • If you have travelled to the county from a Tier 4 area or Wales, since Saturday, please assume you are carrying the virus and self-isolate for 10 days, immediately.
  • Stay local and reduce the number of people you see and mix with.

I know these measures will seem significant and I want to explain why I am asking you to do this.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister announced that London and parts of the South East are now in tier 4. There is a ban on travel in to or out of, these areas.

Christmas bubble arrangements for the rest of England have also been changed, meaning even outside of tier 4 areas, we can only meet with a Christmas bubble of 3 households, on Christmas day.  I would also urge caution with this, please only meet up if you are able to keep the visit short, ask yourself if it really is necessary and are you able to socially distance during the visit.

These new announcements mean many people are cancelling Christmas plans and for some, face Christmas alone.

The reason for these changes, is a new variant of Covid-19, which is spreading much more quickly, and resulting in a rapidly rising R rate. So far we have seen this across London and Kent, and the concern is now that this new variant of Covid-19, will spread throughout the rest of the country. This also means there will be much more pressure on our NHS services.

Viruses do mutate, and this new variant is now being analysed by scientists. There is currently no evidence that it is more dangerous or that anyone becomes more unwell with it and there is also no scientific evidence that it effects the vaccine, which has been designed to work across many strains. But, this variant spreads far more quickly, which means more people are at risk.

At the moment, Worcestershire is in tier 2 but we do not yet know if the new variant is circulating in our county. However, we know that people move around, and ahead of Saturday’s travel restrictions, it is highly likely many people travelled to be out of London and the South East, for Christmas.

We are now concerned that the new strain of Covid-19 could be in Worcestershire. For that reason, I am asking anyone who has travelled here from Tier 4 or Wales since Saturday, to self-isolate for 10 days in the house they are in. This means you MUST NOT go out at all and must not mix with anyone else for those ten days. No visitors should come to the house at all.

Here are some simple things you can do now, to help stop the spread of Covid-19;

  • Do not travel to or out of Tier 4 areas. Worcestershire rates will go up if people move between areas. Please stay local.
  • If you have travelled to Worcestershire from a Tier 4 area or from Wales since Saturday, please assume you are potentially carrying Covid-19, even if you do not have symptoms. Please self-isolate for 10 days in the house you are staying at. Other people who live in the house do not need to self-isolate unless anyone gets a symptom. No-one should visit the house at all, even on Christmas day.
  • Worcestershire is currently in tier 2, but rates are beginning to creep up again, and it is possible that the new variant of Covid-19 is spreading here.  Please keep your distance, follow all the social distancing guidelines and avoid mixing. Remember also, that you may be carrying the virus and have no symptoms.
  • Please ask yourself if it is really necessary to see others on Christmas day or outside at other times. The more we mix, the greater the risk of spreading the virus. Please only meet up if it is necessary.
  • Change your Christmas plans as much as you can. You can only meet your Christmas bubble on the 25th December. Consider if it is necessary, keep your visit as short as possible, limit numbers and meet outdoors if you can.
  • If you have COVID symptoms book a test online. You should self-isolate immediately you have a symptom and stay indoors, away from others for 10 days. Do not go out or mix while you wait for your test result. This is very important.
  • If you need support whilst self-isolating, our Here2Help service continues to run over the festive period.
  • Don’t lose all contact, it is very important for our wellbeing that we do keep in touch. Please call, use online video calling and messaging to keep in touch and check on anyone you are concerned about.

I realise this is difficult for everyone. There is though hope for 2021, as the vaccine has already begun to be given nationally and Worcestershire has begun its vaccination programme in the past few days. We are working closely with our NHS partners to facilitate this and will continue to work with them on this enormous task.

The vaccine will be part of the process to try to return to a more normal life. When you are invited to have it, I would urge you to please take up the offer.

We also know that we can prevent the spread of this variant, in exactly the same ways we have been using until now; Keep washing our hands, keep our distance, wear a face covering, reduce how many people we mix with.

These measures are essential in preventing the spread of the virus and we need to follow these rules as much as ever now. If we all act as if we are carriers, we can significantly reduce the spread of this virus.

This new variant is spreading far more rapidly. We need to be vigilant, we need to take responsibility and we need to do our utmost to protect everyone around us. Now is not the time to relax or drop our guard. Please don’t let Christmas time lead to a surge in cases in the new year.

Finally, may I thank everyone for the acts of kindness they have shown to others so far in this pandemic.

We all need one another’s support and help and it has been heartening to see so many people caring for one another. Our front line and key workers have gone above and beyond in their service to us all, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Thank you all.

Let’s work together now to protect each other. Please stay well, take good care of yourself and ensure we can all look forward to a better 2021.

The county’s Here2Help service is still available for residents to access over the Christmas period.

For more information, please visit the dedicated Here2Help pages of the Council's website.