Leicestershire’s public health chief Mike Sandys is urging people in Harborough to be safe rather than sorry as Freedom Day from Covid looms on Thursday.
Mike is calling on people across the district and throughout the county to be cautious as the need to self-isolate in England if you have the coronavirus will end in just 48 hours.
He is exhorting everyone to make sure they are fully vaccinated and to assume personal responsibility in the fight to beat Omicron as the country gears up to end all Covid curbs after almost two years.
“Freedom Day is fine but there is still a lot of the virus out there.
“It’s not gone away yet by any means and it won’t go away simply because we don’t have to self-isolate any more,” said Mike, Leicestershire’s Director of Public Health.
“For me it’s not about what we have to do legally or not.
“It’s all about continuing to do the right thing and the healthy thing.
“So the first thing is to make sure that you are fully vaccinated.
“That’s the best and most effective way to defeat and push back this virus,” said Mike.
“We also have to be cautious.
“Free Covid testing will go on until April 1.
“So if you have any symptoms please go and get tested.
“Accept and assume responsibility for yourself.
“This was under-reported but Boris Johnson did stress the need for us all to be responsible for ourselves and to our communities when the Prime Minister spoke about Freedom Day yesterday.
“The more we mix if we’re ill the more cases will start to go up again.
“As a nation we’ve been pretty bad about this over the years.
“We have tended to soldier on, not let the side down and still go into work if we’ve had a cold or a bug,” insisted Mike.
“But we can’t afford to do that with Covid – or it will spread faster.
“So stay at home and don’t mix with other people if you are feeling ill.
“I know it’s tricky because some people won’t get paid if they don’t turn up to work unfortunately.
“It’s also going to be harder for us health professionals to work out how many cases we’ve got on our hands and where they are if people aren’t testing because we won’t have the data.
“I went into Sainsbury’s today and heard someone with a nasty hacking cough.
“And it really stood out because people with bad coughs haven’t been going out for two years.
“So please think of others, think of the rest of society, as well as yourself and do the right thing if you even suspect that you’ve got Covid.”
Mike revealed that the latest figures show that 423.9 people per 100,000 in Harborough tested positive for the virus from Thursday February 10 to Wednesday February 16.
That’s below the national average for England of 456.5 but significantly above the county-wide rate for Leicestershire of 358.4.
“Harborough currently has the second-highest rate in the county behind Melton.
“The rest of Leicestershire and the city have shown a steeper drop in cases than Harborough,” said Mike.
“I’m not sure why that is, there are no outstanding spikes or clusters in the district.
“Cases seem to be more focused among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
“Maybe it’s a spillover into the parental population from school cases before the half-term break.
“The rate of infection has fallen by about a fifth in Harborough in the last week – so at least we are still heading in the right direction.
“After all it did soar to a record high of 2,025 cases per 100,000 in the New Year just a few weeks ago,” said the hugely-experienced public health boss.
“So we are still on a downward path, which is good.
“But I do fear that cases will go up again over the next few weeks as the need to self-isolate ends and students return to school.
“For me this is not simply about living with Covid – it’s about living safely with Covid.
“I’d have been much happier if the Prime Minister had inserted the word ‘safely’ and used that phrase because this is absolutely critical.
“We have about 166 patients with Covid in Leicester’s three main hospitals at the moment.
“That’s come down from 270 or so just three weeks ago.
“So it is all down to us now,” said Mike.
“Act responsibly, use your common sense and help to look after other people as well as just yourself and we’ll get through this sooner rather than later.”