Last week, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, addressed the nation on the coronavirus pandemic. The aim of the speech was to provide us with an update on the virus, to re-emphasise the basic actions we must all take to help reduce the spread of the virus and to outline the additional measures to be introduced.
When the lockdown was introduced in March, we were told to stay at home, to protect the NHS and to save lives. These changes required us all to make big sacrifices as we adapted our lives to help each other in the fight against the virus. Here in Doncaster, the majority of people followed the guidance and we were able to bring the infection rate right down. Even when restrictions were eased in July and August, our collective efforts helped to keep the infection rates low, one of the lowest in the country in fact.
Over recent weeks however, the infection rate has started to rise again across the whole country as the virus has started to take hold. Doncaster is no exception and our rate has increased from a low of 3.2 per 100,000 population at the beginning of September to 29.0 per 100,000 now. The number of people being treated with coronavirus in Doncaster Royal Infirmary has started to rise again and sadly we have seen two deaths in the last week.
I would like to take this opportunity as a GP and Chair of Doncaster CCG to remind everyone of our personal responsibilities and of the actions we must all take to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, to protect the vulnerable and to reduce the risk of more stringent restrictions being introduced in a local lockdown.
The national restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday 22 September, include:
- Pubs, bars, restaurants and hospitality venues in England will be required to have a 10pm closing time from Thursday 24 September, and the sector will also be restricted by law to providing table service only
- People are being urged to work from home where it does not negatively impact businesses
- Face coverings will be compulsory for retail staff, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink
- From Monday 28 September, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions. Up to 30 can still attend a funeral
- The rule of six will be extended to all adult indoor team sports
- Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will now no longer be able to reopen as originally intended
We face a number of risks if we don’t follow the rules. There is a big health risk that you could contract the virus yourself and spread it to loved ones. There is also a risk that you could be fined for not following the rules. And if the infection rate continues to rise, there is a risk that additional restrictions will be introduced by the Government. So please, remember the basics:
- HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
- FACE – Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place.
And if you have symptoms of the coronavirus, you MUST self-isolate immediately for 10 days. Self-isolation is not the same as social distancing. If you are self-isolating because you have symptoms, you must not leave your home, do not go to the shops, do not leave your house/garden to exercise and do not let anyone visit your home.
The NHS COVID-19 app is also now available to download for free in England and Wales. It is the fastest way to see if you are at risk from coronavirus. The faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community. You can read more here about how to download the app. I firmly believe that if we all pull together, like we did before, and if we all follow the rules, we can suppress the virus over this difficult winter period and keep ourselves and our families safe. The short-term sacrifices we are all being asked to make now will benefit us all in the long run and help us get back to our new normal lives again. Let’s do it for Doncaster!