We are fast approaching February half term (15th - 19th February for most parts of the country). After a very tough winter we are all looking forward to nicer weather and brighter days, but right now we are in a very important moment of the pandemic.
We are seeing the vaccine roll out happen at great pace and over 12 million people have now received their COVID-19 jab. It is also very encouraging to see infection rates start to fall. This is mainly driven by the current lockdown and social distancing. However, the drop in positive cases will take longer to filter through to the number of deaths and hospitals are still under huge pressure.
There are reasons to be hopeful and it is good to see the sacrifices of lockdown making a difference, but to ensure infection rates and hospital admissions continue going in the right direction, and to keep ourselves and those around us safe, it remains as important as ever to continue following the rules.
We are still in a national lockdown and the rule to stay at home remains in place, including over the February half term break. There is no doubt that it is tough, but as lots of people may have time off and children have a break from school work, it’s really important that we all stay local, do not travel around the country and don’t mix households.
Travelling to second homes or holiday homes is still not permitted.
Staying home and taking our daily exercise locally remain two of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the virus and help protect the NHS.
Continuing to respect ‘Hands, Face, Space’ is also very important - washing hands frequently and as soon as you come in from the outside, wearing a face covering in all applicable settings and staying 2 meters away from people outside of your household wherever possible. Do not mix if unwell.
Continuing to follow the rules after vaccination
Thousands of people are getting vaccinated each day and high numbers of people in the priority groups set out by the Government to receive the vaccine first have now done so. No vaccine is 100% effective and while the vaccines we have approved for use in the UK have extremely high efficacy rates, we are still learning about to what extent those who are vaccinated can carry and transmit the virus.
While it is far less likely you will get seriously ill after being vaccinated, you may still pass the virus onto someone who isn’t vaccinated and who may go on to become very unwell. Many of those in hospital now are aged under 60 years and therefore many younger adults are still getting infected.
We also know that around 1 in 3 people who get infected with COVID-19 do not show symptoms and so can unknowingly pass on the virus.
In short, those who are vaccinated must continue to follow the rules. Lots of families will likely have had grandparents or other key worker relatives who have now thankfully received their vaccine, but to ensure we keep seeing improvements to the situation in the UK, we cannot become complacent.
Sticking to the rules even when you are vaccinated means you continue to protect others, protect the NHS and help to keep the virus from spreading.
Testing and self-isolating
The rules on testing and self-isolation have not changed. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you must start to self-isolate immediately and book a test. Self-isolation should happen for ten days from when you first get symptoms and those in your household must also self-isolate. If someone in your household develops symptoms later, they must then self-isolate for a further ten days from this day
If you have been vaccinated, you must still self-isolate if you are told to or if someone in your household tests positive.
From struggling with loneliness, juggling work and home schooling and dealing with the enormous changes to our lives, mental wellbeing has been impacted in lots of ways during the pandemic. The Every Mind Matters online tool is a simple way to help you look after your mental health and includes expert advice and practical tips.
We are living through a life-altering event and we are all dealing with new and in many cases difficult ways of working, living and educating our children plus really missing our family and friends. While there is certainly news to be positive about, it doesn’t make the reality of the pandemic any easier and it may become more tempting as we come out of the dark, cold winter months to get out and about and venture further from home.
The more we resist this and stick to those stay at home rules the more we will see further improvements. It is important to look after ourselves and those around us in these very difficult times and by remaining vigilant we will protect people from catching the virus, we will drive down infection rates, reduce some of the pressure on our NHS and move closer to a more normal way of life.