Local residents in St Helens Borough are being urged to keep testing regularly for Covid-19 as national Plan B restrictions come to an end this week.
Although infection rates in the borough have fallen slightly in recent weeks, the number of positive cases remains high, with over 1300 new cases recorded alone in the week up to January 24th and overall case rates at 726 per 100,000 people.
In addition, infection rates in local schools and nurseries are still very high, with positive cases amongst 0 -17 year olds the highest of any age group in the borough, with rising numbers of teaching staff in schools also testing positive for the virus.
To help limit further rises in infections, local residents are being asked to keep Covid testing if mixing with other people such as when attending work and school and particularly if they have families or are planning to visit vulnerable or elderly relatives in the near future.
Residents are also being encouraged to continue wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, travelling on public transport and where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.
Residents are also being asked to get their Covid vaccinations as soon as possible, particularly booster vaccinations as this can give the best defence against the more infectious Omicron variant of the virus.
Younger people aged 12 years and upwards are also being urged to get their Covid vaccinations as soon as they are eligible (12 weeks after the first dose), with first and second vaccinations now available to many children in the borough at school during normal school hours.
Anyone aged 12 and over can now access their first or second vaccinations and if you are aged 18 or over and had your second dose at least three months ago (91 days) you can also now book your booster vaccination as well.
To book an appointment at your nearest vaccination centre, visit Book or manage a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
The Mass Vaccination Centre and the Allied pharmacy site both based at the Saints Stadium in St Helens currently have capacity for walk-ins for both first, second and booster jabs. Walk in appointments are also available subject to availability at Hollowood Chemists Vaccination Centre, West End Road, Haydock and Allied Pharmacies at Bold Industrial Estate. For more details on vaccination walk-in sessions visit : https://www.sthelensccg.nhs.uk/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccine-walk-in-sessions/
Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage said: “Although infection rates in the borough have thankfully dropped recently the number of people picking up and passing on the virus is still very high so we must do we all we can to stop infections rising again.
“Testing is the best way to know if you are likely to infect others so it is important that we do all continue to test, particularly if we are likely to come into contact with vulnerable family members or friends. Without regular testing you could easily pass the virus on to others without showing any symptoms yourself.
“Also do take the opportunity to have your vaccinations as soon as you can – they are the best defence we can have against Covid-19. You should also try to get the flu vaccination as well if you are eligible.”
Ruth du Plessis, Director of Public Health at St Helens Borough Council, said: “One of the key reasons restrictions are being reduced is because of people being sensible and vaccinations have massively reduced the risk of serious illness.
“However, we still have high case rates and the virus keeps mutating, therefore it is clear that if we are to keep bringing infection levels down locally then we must all be cautious in the weeks ahead. Keep testing and taking sensible precautions such as hand washing and regularly opening windows for good ventilation.
“Infection levels in our schools in the borough remain very high and it is particularly important that families and younger people in particular continue to test regularly to help reduce this spread.
“We would also advise that if you are using public transport or visiting any busy indoor areas such as shops that you do continue to wear a face mask if possible. The virus can transmit very easily in these environments so do take that precaution if you can.”
You can find out more about how to get a symptom free test or where to get a PCR test if you have one of these symptoms – a high temperature, or a new, continuous cough, or a loss of sense of smell or taste – at www.sthelens.gov.uk/letsgettested
If you need to isolate and need advice or support contact St Helens Together on 01744 676767