Cumbria’s public health director has raised concerns about the new Indian variant of coronavirus as restrictions are set to be eased.
With COVID-19 lockdown restrictions sets to ease from Monday, Cumbrians are being encouraged to remain cautious and reminded that COVID remains a threat.
The warning comes as neighbouring areas in the north west are seeing increasing numbers of outbreaks involving the new Indian variant of the virus and surge testing implemented in affected communities.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “COVID infections in Cumbria remain very low, which is fantastic. But there is cause for some concern given what we are now seeing in other parts of the region with the spread of the new Indian variant.
“There are still a lot of unknowns about the Indian variant in terms of how it spreads and how effective our vaccines are, so it really is important that we don’t let it get a foothold in the county.
“I’m asking people to enjoy the new things we can do from Monday, but take simple and sensible precautions to keep yourself, and the people you meet, safe.”
Alongside changes to hospitality, events and entertainment, funerals and travel, from May 17 people will be permitted to meet outside in groups of up to 30 people and meet indoors with up to six people or two households. Whatever people are doing, the advice from Cumbria’s public health team is:
- Meet outside. It is safer as fresh air blows the COVID-19 particles away. If you do meet inside, open the windows where possible to let in fresh air.
- Take the vaccine when you are offered it. Vaccines significantly reduce the chances of catching COVID-19 and passing it on and of severe illness. Consider whether you and your loved ones are vaccinated and whether there has been time for the vaccine to take effect before being in close contact.
- Remember that some people are more vulnerable than others. The risks from COVID-19 and therefore of close contact are greater for some people. For example, you might choose not to have close contact with an elderly relative at this point, particularly if one or both of you are not vaccinated.
- Minimise how many people you’re in close contact with, and for how long. The more people you are in close contact with the higher the chances of you catching or passing on COVID-19. Longer periods of close contact increase the risk of transmission but remember that even brief contact can spread COVID-19.
- Take a symptom-free COVID-19 lateral flow test twice a week as a precaution, and if you do test positive book a NHS (PCR) test to confirm it. If you do have symptoms, however mild, self-isolate and book an NHS (PCR) test immediately.
- Continue to wash your hands regularly.
- Make space for other people to maintain social distance if they want to.
- You must self-isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19 (however mild) or test positive, and do not meet up with others during this time. This is essential to stop any transmission. If people don’t self-isolate, we will continue to see outbreaks in settings and in communities and won’t be able to contain the virus.
The latest data for Cumbria up to week ending May 7 shows just 25 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded, down 40 per cent on the week before.