Lifting measures in the face of Omicron

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

Here we go again. Nearly all COVID restrictions are lifted as of tomorrow, and it is now down to us.

We must ensure that we do not see history repeating itself with an easing of rules leading to a surge in infections and the inevitable subsequent clampdown.

The Prime Minister calls it a return to ‘complete normality’, but he also stresses that it is “important that people remain cautious” as all Plan B rules are rescinded.

Already we are no longer required to work from home and from Thursday, January 27th we will no longer be required to wear masks, the size of gatherings will no longer be restricted and COVID passes will not need to be shown, ahead of scrapping of all related laws by mid-March.

Or put another way, we now most all manage our own risk and the risk of those close to us, particularly those that are vulnerable, because for them there can be a return to ‘complete normality’ for the foreseeable future.

Many people in towns across the Bay will remain nervous about contact with people and will continue to take what they consider to be reasonable precautions. For most, that will mean that if they leave their homes, they will be masked when inside with others and will continue to socially distance themselves. But there are also those categorised as extremely vulnerable who may well wish to remain isolated.

Normal or not, there are still lots of things that we can do to ensure we do not just look after ourselves, but we are not responsible for making others ill or in the worst-case scenario, be responsible for putting someone in hospital.

Ironically, the number of people in Torbay Hospital with coronavirus has been rising in recent weeks. In December there were 20 people which rose in early January to 28 and as of January 19th, that figure was 34 with one person being ventilated.

Sadly those figures are reflected in the headline figures and here in Torbay cases remain above the national average at 1161 per one hundred thousand compared to 935and some experts believe the figures may yet spike further.

In just one school last week there were 60 pupils off along with nine members of staff and yet despite the rising figures, the number of people being vaccinated in the Bay has plummeted. Our volunteers and NHS staff at the Riviera Centre in Torquay have never seen it so quiet, although it was good to see so many young people at the centre at the weekend.

Just before Christmas, when the pressure was on for everyone to be ready to sit around the festive family dinner table, the queues at the Riviera were around the block but since then the enthusiasm for vaccinations has waned.

And yet the best protection against omicron has proved to be the vaccination – one, two, and a booster have been credited with reducing the symptoms in nearly every one and in most cases reducing it to a little more than a heavy cold.

The fact is that is not the case for everyone. There remains within our society a significant number of people with pre-existing medical conditions for whom the virus in whatever form could prove fatal. It is for them that we must maintain our own levels of protection.

Here at Ageing Well, where we oversee the restarting of events across the Bay, we urge caution as we know that many of the people we see are not just older, but also potentially vulnerable.

Therefore, for the time being, whilst we cannot insist that people wear masks, we can ask them to respect others and we will continue to ask when appropriate, that social distances are maintained and windows will be opened to promote ventilation when we meet inside.

We owe it to each other, do all we can, respect the needs and wants of others, and get vaccinated not just for ourselves, but to help put an end once and for all to the spread of this dreadful virus.

It has been nearly two years. Enough already! The end is potentially in sight, but we will only relax when it is safe for everyone.