We’re almost two years on from the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown – and what a time this has been. The UK is increasingly protected against the virus – with thanks largely to such a successful vaccination programme. Now the government’s focus is shifting from reducing prevalence of the virus to encouraging people to live and work alongside it.
Sandwell currently has the lowest Covid-19 rate in the West Midlands with a rate of 160 cases per 100,000 of the population (figure from council press release on Friday 25 February 2022).
Nationally, government restrictions have lifted and there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate. National contact tracing has stopped.
Covid hasn’t gone away, though. Here are some useful things to know in Sandwell:
Thank you, Sandwell! Don’t stop being vigilant
Dr Lisa McNally, Director of Public Health for Sandwell Council has thanked partners and all the residents of Sandwell for their support during the current pandemic:
“We have worked together over the past two years to minimise the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the borough and, although the pandemic has taken a terrible toll, it would have been far worse without that support.
“I urge people to continue to take measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 where appropriate, such as, hand washing, mask wearing and increased ventilation.
“The virus is still with us and people will still be advised to self-isolate in the same way they have done until 1 April. We are now in a much better position with the roll-out of the vaccine and treatments such as anti-virals.
“We are continuing our award-winning Community Vaccination Leaders Programme throughout 2022 as community members are key in getting this vaccination message out to our residents.”
Take up your free vaccine …
Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for adults, social care and health, said: “Vaccination is the key weapon in our armoury to fight this virus and we encourage people to take up the offer of the free vaccine whether it is your first dose or the new fourth dose boosters that will be offered to vulnerable groups in the spring.
“With the removal of Covid-19 restrictions it is more important than ever to get vaccinated. We’ll continue to work with our NHS, voluntary and faith sector partners to address people’s concerns and encourage them to get their jabs, as vaccines are safe, effective, and give the best protection against the virus.”
For information about vaccines and vaccination clinics in Sandwell, visit: www.healthysandwell.co.uk/covid-19/vaccination/.
… and request a ‘Booster Bus’ visit to your business
As a businessperson in Sandwell, you will know the effect Covid has had on staff absences and business productivity. With more people returning to offices, and socialising while not testing, the virus will be spreading more readily which is likely to increase cases of staff illness and absences.
Sandwell Council’s Public Health team is pleased to help you prevent this by offering your business a visit from the Booster Bus. The bus will come to your workplace and administer booster vaccinations to all of your staff who haven’t yet had a booster. Having a booster jab will keep an individual’s immune levels high and help to keep your staff healthy and in work.
These visits are only available during March so act now and book a visit to your workplace by contacting Cathren Armstrong via firstname.lastname@example.org or Matt Hill via email@example.com.
Local contact tracing is winding down
Sandwell Council is winding down one of the first local contact tracing services to be established in the UK.
In July 2020, Sandwell Public Health started a local contact tracing service in response to the low numbers of the local population being reached by the national Test and Trace programme.
Although the start of the service met with some controversy, within weeks the local service had increased the successful reach from under 60 per cent to over 85 per cent of new cases. Since then the team contacted more than 34,000 residents, providing advice and support to protect them and people around them.
The local service joined up with the national system from where it received data on people who needed to be contacted and given advice. That data is no longer being provided, which means the Sandwell contact tracing service can’t operate as it has done over the last 18 months.
The local service was named as an example of best practice by the Local Government Association and became a model for other councils developing their own services.
Dr Lisa McNally said: “Having a local service that covered a range of languages meant that more people got the advice they needed and more of their contacts were warned that they had been exposed to the virus.
“So many people have played a part in developing and running Sandwell’s contact tracing service. It’s been an example of how local innovation can work together and supplement national initiatives. Whilst we hope it will not be needed, we aim to be able to step up a local contact tracing service again if there are further waves of transmission or a new variant emerges.
“My thanks go out to everyone involved, including the local population who responded so well to our service.”
Ameena Muflihi of the Yemeni Community Association, said: “The local enhanced contact tracing system run by Sandwell Council has been invaluable to ensuring we protect our communities from the impacts of the pandemic. For example, having people who are able to speak a number of languages talking to members of our community, to explain the latest guidance and who should be isolating, has proven extremely successful.”
Think Sandwell is here for you
We’re adapting our coronavirus support pages to become useful resources for living and working with Covid-19, incorporating many of the useful things this pandemic has taught businesses (such as ways to work remotely and support everyone’s mental health) into lasting content. You can find these Covid-19 pages, and all of our business resources, here.