A cautious countdown ’til Christmas

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

Just over three weeks to go until we all celebrate the big day. We hope.

In this uncertain world of COVID, nothing is a given and we must all focus all our efforts on making sure we can all sit down and celebrate with family and friends this Christmas.

We came close last year but failed at the final hurdle and for most of us, it was an isolated Christmas – a contradiction in terms for those of used to sharing food and celebrating with family and friends.

This year, there has been no talk of another lockdown and it is unlikely it will happen at a national level, but the warnings of the consequences of not being careful are once again playing out across Europe.

There is also talk of a new variant, Omicron, that the Government has moved quickly to isolate by locking down the borders with various African countries to keep the super-fast spreading version of the virus away from these shores.

But in the main, responsibility for our Christmas and New Year actually rests with us and how we decide to approach the last few weeks of 2021 – we have a choice – with abandon, as is the temptation or with caution.

The Government have also reintroduced rules for wearing a mask in shops and on public transport, but even with those precautions in place, it does not follow that some families and individuals will not find themselves self-isolating this festive season and the really unlucky ones it will be for the full ten days from Christmas Eve until the return to work in the New Year.

Nothing has changed in that respect – if you come into contact with the virus, you must take the precaution of testing and isolating yourself until the results come through.

The Government message remains firm and it is worth reminding ourselves of the main thrust of it as we enter the festive party season:

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should arrange to have a PCR test as soon as possible. This still applies even if you have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, you should stay at home and self-isolate. If you are fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and six months you are not required to self-isolate if you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

You could be fined if you do not self-isolate following a notification by NHS Test and Trace]. You may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you are required to stay at home and self-isolate or you are the parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate.

Despite a fabulous vaccination programme which has meant 84 per cent of people aged over 12 in Torbay have had their first injection and 78% their second, there is no such as immunity and the number of people in the Bay who have contracted the virus is currently as high as it ever has been.

The advantage of the vaccination is generally milder symptoms and less chance of hospitalisation but the figures at 628 infections per one hundred thousand people compared to the national average of 449 per one hundred thousand,  are testament to that.

Whether or not the majority of us get to sit down at our Christmas dinner table of choice is mainly down to us and if we are to achieve it, it is down to us to keep on observing the simplest of rules that have applied since the virus first became a part of our lives back in March 2020.

In short, keep washing your hands regularly, keep your social distance of two metres whenever possible and wear a mask whenever you are moving around indoors or on public transport. And hope that everyone else does the same because that is the bit you cannot control.

Party season, celebrations, cold weather and huddling indoors can be a recipe for disaster. All could combine with the normal winter ills to overwhelm the NHS unless we all take it seriously.

In the words Sergeant Phil Esterhaus one of the characters from one of my favourite American police series from the eighties called Hill Street Blues – ‘Let’s be careful out there.’