Chris Duffy blog for April
I hope my blog for April begins to signal a more hopeful outlook than has been possible over the last 12 months. Although COVID-19 is undoubtedly still around in our communities we, like the rest of the country, are looking forward to unlocking our lives safely as we learn to live with the virus.
The infection rate across the borough at the end of last month was hovering around 100, although I understand this has reduced since to 60. The rate in people aged over 60 has crept up a little but is still very low, though, at about 30 cases per week compared to the 90 per week we were seeing in January. Unfortunately, we still have one of the highest infection rates in Greater Manchester and the UK.
Lots of people are still coming forward to be tested which is good news. This is helped by the convenience of our many FAST testing sites and roving services. These plus the testing available for school and college students mean that there are fewer opportunities for people to unknowingly spread the virus amongst their contacts.
The FAST testing site in Heywood has now moved to York House surgery and all sites have new opening hours. We are offering people the chance to get tested twice a week so we can help isolate any remaining infection;
- Rochdale – Nye Bevan House, Maclure Road, Rochdale, OL11 1DN – Open weekdays 9am – 5pm (10am – 6pm on Fridays)
- Heywood – York House Surgery, York Street, Heywood, OL10 4NN – Open 9am – 5pm weekdays (10am to 6pm Mondays)
- Middleton – Bowlee Sports Centre, Windermere Road, Middleton, M24 4LA – Open 8am to 4pm weekdays
- Pennines – Hare Hill Bowling Club, Townhouse Road Littleborough, OL15 9BG – Open 8am to 4pm weekdays
- Every Monday at Alkrington Community Centre, Hardfield Rd, Middleton, M24 1TQ – Open 11am to 6pm.
It’s important to know that due to another change to the national guidance, people are now required to take a PCR (usual) COVID-19 test after a positive lateral flow test (FAST). If this PCR test is negative the person is no longer required to isolate. This should reduce the numbers of school children having to isolate at home.
Vaccinations continue to be a real success story for the borough. We are now at over 100,000 vaccinations being administered across the borough and although there are still some challenges we are seeing some encouraging data about take up. 93% of people over 70 have received at least one dose, 75% of eligible Asian people in priority groups one to four have received at least one dose and 84% of our clinically extremely vulnerable residents (CEVs) – these are really encouraging statistics to aid our fight against this terrible virus. Its essential that people get their second jabs in order to have the best possible chance to protect themselves and others.
So as we progress to the next stage of the roadmap to lockdown easing when outdoor areas of pubs and leisure facilities are able to open, along with non-essential shops and hairdressers, its essential that we proceed with caution and still adhere to the now familiar rules of hands, face and space, and circulate fresh air. As we enter the holy month of Ramadan at the same time on April 12, we must continue to adhere to these measures, however tempted we are to spend time and let our guards down with our friends and families.
Above all we look forward to being in a position where our testing and vaccination success starts to show itself in a real reduction in our infection rates.
At the moment we have never needed mental health and stress support more. As April is stress awareness month it’s being used to highlight the importance of managing stress and offering coping mechanisms to people who are struggling at this time. There are some useful assets and info on the Stress Management Society website: https://www.stress.org.uk/stressawarenessmonth/.
Stay safe and I look forward to giving you a more positive outlook in next month’s blog. Please continue to follow us on our social media channels, Facebook: NHSHMRCCG and Twitter @NHSHMR
Thank you for reading,
Dr Chris Duffy