When we issued our last update we were just at the start of our journey back towards a more normal way of life.
Just over a month later and we appear to have successfully negotiated the first two steps of lockdown easing and are looking forward to the next set of restrictions being lifted on 17 May.
Infection rates in our district are low, at levels not seen since August 2020 (you can see the figures for yourself on the Worcestershire Coronavirus dashboard). Let’s make sure they stay that way by continuing to follow the lockdown easing guidance at each step.
In this update we have information on:
- an update on the vaccine rollout and challenging vaccine misinformation
- access to free rapid (lateral flow) testing
- support if you are experiencing anxiety or difficult feelings as we come out of lockdown
- information on our new economic recovery fund
- Elections and Covid-19 update
Most of us will be looking forward to 21 June when it is planned all legal restrictions on social contact will end. But we are not there yet.
As Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said at the coronavirus press conference this week ‘we need to hold the line for a teeny bit longer’.
We’re almost there, let’s not put it all at risk. Let’s get back to what we love safely.
Join the millions already vaccinated
So far 49,534 people have had at least their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in our district. If you are over 40 you can now book your Covid-19 vaccine.
Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and the best way to protect people from coronavirus. By coming forward for the vaccine when it is your turn, you are not only helping to save lives, but speeding up our return to a more normal way of life.
Vaccinated people are:
- Less likely to get Covid-19 symptoms
- Even more unlikely to get serious Covid-19 and have to be admitted to hospital or die from it
- Less likely to pass the virus on to others (evidence is growing although more research is needed)
The first dose of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offer good levels of protection, but to get maximum protection everyone will need to get a second dose. Having your second dose will also protect you for longer.
If you have had your first dose then please make sure you go back for your second appointment.
It is essential that everyone continues to follow COVID-19 restrictions whether they have had the vaccine or not.
Beware vaccine misinformation
There is a lot of disinformation about the vaccine circulating on social media. Please make sure you are getting your information from reliable sources.
One of the biggest myths circulating right now is about the vaccine and fertility. The British Fertility Society has created a Covid-19 vaccine and fertility factsheet which explains why it is safe for people of childbearing age to have the vaccine. Please note, the advice in the factsheet about the vaccine and pregnancy is out of date as updated guidance was issued about Covid-19 vaccination in pregnancy on 16 April.
Another popular myth that is deterring some people is the claim the vaccine contains animal products.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed the Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine do not contain egg or any components of animal origin.
The NHS Covid-19 vaccination page has more information on the safety of the vaccine and any potential side effects.
We know some of you have concerns about how fast vaccines have been developed. Here is a short explainer video on how it was possible to produce Covid-19 vaccines safely and at speed.
Get your free rapid (lateral flow) testing kits
The Government is urging everyone without Covid-19 symptoms to carry out two rapid (lateral flow) tests a week at home. This will help identify the 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 who have the virus but do not realise it.
If you test positive you and anyone you live with must self-isolate immediately, report your test result and book a standard PCR Covid-19 test.
Rapid testing kits are available from pharmacies, some mass testing sites and some libraries. Visit Worcestershire County Council’s page on testing for people without symptoms for more information.
Looking after your mental health as we come out of lockdown
While some of us cannot wait for the 21 June and the potential end of restrictions on social contact, for others it is a time of anxiety.
Having spent so long staying at home and apart from others, the thought of returning to crowded spaces, or even just setting foot outside the front door, can result in difficult feelings.
If this is happening to you then it’s okay. There isn’t a right or wrong way to feel about this situation. The important thing is you do something about it.
The mental health charity Mind has produced some good information and self-help support on managing feelings about lockdown easing.
The pandemic has also disrupted our sleep patterns and increased our stress levels as we have adapted to a new way of living.
The Every Mind Matters website has a range of information on things you can try to help tackle some of these issues.
You are also encouraged to make your own free NHS online plan, with simple steps to help manage anxiety, sleep and to boost your mood.
£500,000 economic recovery fund unveiled
A £500,000 Economic Recovery Fund is being created to support the rebuilding of the district’s economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will be used to provide, amongst other things:
- A programme to support businesses to take on apprentices, graduates and other trainees
- An event development budget to support events that will generate footfall for the district’s town centres and money for marketing
- A Town Centre Transformation Scheme which will include grants to help businesses improve shop fronts, support for businesses to trade online, marketing and branding activity and free parking after 3pm during April and May
Get back to supporting our traders safely
Our traders have been through a lot this last year and it has been good to see people returning to our town centres since non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality restarted on 12 April.
We are running our ‘let’s get back to supporting our traders safely’ marketing campaign to encourage people to back local businesses.
Where you spend your money matters. If every adult in the UK spent £5 in their local shops and businesses, instead of online retailers or multi-national chain stores, It would mean £13.5billion going directly back into local areas. You have the power to make a difference to the success of our high streets with the spending decisions you make.
Many of our local businesses are continuing to offer delivery and click and collect services as well.
How to vote in next Thursday’s local elections
On Thursday (6 May) elections will take place to Worcestershire County Council, for the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner and there is also a by-election for The Malvern Hills Trust.
If you are voting in-person on the day then Covid-19 Secure measures will be in place to keep you, other voters and our staff safe.
You will be required to:
- Wear a face covering when in the polling station unless you are legally exempt
- Sanitise your hands on entering the polling station
- Pay attention to floor markers which will help maintain social distancing
- Bring your own pen or pencil. Clean pencils will be available on the day if you forget
Staff will also be carrying out extra cleaning.
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm. It may take longer than usual to vote so please vote early on in the day if you can.
Some polling stations may have changed due to the need to maintain social distancing restrictions. You can find out where to vote using our online checker
If you are voting by post then please watch this short video on how to complete your postal vote. Royal Mail recommend you post your vote by 4 May so please don’t delay and get your postal vote in asap.
If you are worried your postal vote will not make it in time, then you can hand it in at your local polling station on polling day itself.
Jobs and training opportunities now all in one place
A new website has been launched by Worcestershire LEP and Worcestershire County Council to help people easily find jobs, training options and educational courses all within Worcestershire.
Worcestershire jobs is a free service that works by gathering all local vacancies and courses into one easy to use website. This allows anyone to quickly search for jobs, training opportunities or further educational courses at the click of a button.
Users can also enter keywords to filter their results based on the interests or skills they have.
Check out the site at www.worcestershirejobs.co.uk