AS we move into summer, we are all looking forward to returning to doing some of the things that we consider ‘normal’, but that we haven’t been able to do for some time.
This is largely thanks to so many people having taken up the offer of the COVID-19 vaccine, and having stuck to the public health advice and regulations over recent months.
However, we are not through this yet – we have seen a significant rise in the proportion of COVID-19 cases in Northern Ireland which have been due to the Delta variant, which first emerged in India – week on week, we have seen numbers of confirmed and probable cases more than double recently.
This variant appears to spread much more quickly than previous strains and has now been identified across all areas, but the good news is that the available vaccines do appear to offer a high degree of protection against the new variant, plus the steps we all should be taking to help reduce the spread of coronavirus generally are also effective for Delta.
We are therefore urging people living in the Antrim and Newtownabbey area to do a number of things to help protect themselves, those close to them, and the wider community.
Firstly, get vaccinated. The vaccines which we have available offer a good degree of protection against all known variants of coronavirus in circulation, including Delta.
Everyone over 18 is now eligible to be vaccinated, so if you haven’t done so already, book an appointment, and make sure you get the second dose as scheduled as this will maximise the level of protection. You can find out more and book your vaccination at covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated
We need as many eligible people to get it as possible and for everyone to get both doses for its full benefits to be achieved. By maximising vaccination, we can not only help to protect ourselves but also more vulnerable members of our community.
Secondly, if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, get tested. If you receive a positive result, self-isolate as advised by our Contact Tracing Service and share details of your contacts. If you are identified as a close contact of someone who has received a positive result, self-isolate and get tested yourself as advised by CTS, and don’t exit self-isolation, even if your test result comes back as negative.
As with any aspect of the COVID-19 response, it can only be fully effective if everyone plays their part, so I would also urge everyone to stick to these actions around testing and self-isolation if they have symptoms or are a case or contact, to help prevent further spread of coronavirus. And remember, the whole service is completely confidential.
Thirdly, we also need to continue to follow regulations and public health advice, and this includes those of us who have had the vaccine. Vaccination reduces the chance of getting COVID-19 disease, but it does not eradicate the risk completely. Therefore, it is essential that we continue to follow public health advice about wearing a face covering, maintaining social distancing, washing our hands, and keeping rooms well-ventilated.
I know this advice has been around since the beginning of the pandemic, but these steps still remain some of the best ways to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, including the Delta variant.
The past year has brought massive heartache for many people as a result of this disease, unimaginable disruption to our daily lives, and put our health service under tremendous pressure. However, with a range of support in place to help manage COVID-19, people can be reassured that in Northern Ireland we are putting in a massive effort to help tackle the pandemic.
Therefore, I really would re-emphasise my call for members of the public in the Antrim and Newtownabbey area, and across Northern Ireland, to continue to work with us, particularly given the rise in Delta variant, as any effort to face-down this disease can only work effectively if we all play our part.