Superheroes wear a mask – Don’t give Covid-19 the opportunity to spread
Column by Councillor James Reeder, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Prevention.
Here in Suffolk, and indeed nationally, it has been encouraging to see the numbers of cases of Covid-19 falling in recent weeks as a result of the current lockdown measures. The vaccination roll-out is also going well, with more than 13m people having had their first dose of the vaccine nationally, and in Suffolk more than 90% of those over 75 have received their first dose of the vaccine.
But numbers of infections still remain high and for many, infections can lead to hospital admissions and sadly some will die. We are also learning more about new variants of the virus which have mutated, some of which show signs of being more contagious than previous variants, meaning they will spread more easily from person to person. We must therefore continue to be vigilant in following the rules which keep us all safe. We all have a responsibility to do all we can to reduce any opportunity for this virus to spread.
One of the ways we can all reduce transmission of Covid-19 is to wear a face mask whenever we are close to people we do not live with.
Because 1 in 3 people who have Covid-19 do not have symptoms, it is possible that we may have the virus without knowing it, and therefore unknowingly pass it on to others. Covid-19 is spread by droplets, when we breathe, talk or cough. By wearing secure face mask, covering our mouth and nose, we reduce the distance these droplets can travel, which reduces the risk to others around us.
We are required by law to wear a face mask in certain settings such as inside shops and on public transport, but there are other times we can help to keep each other safe by wearing a face mask. We may be walking down a busy high street where distancing is not always easy, in a queue for an outdoor market or car park machine or going for a walk in a busy park. By wearing a face mask during these brief moments where we may find ourselves close to other people, we all protect each other.
Some people are medically exempt from wearing a face mask - but this doesn’t mean they cannot also pass the virus on to others. If you cannot wear a face mask, you may be wondering what else you can do to protect yourself and others. We can help to keep each other safe by increasing the distance between ourselves and other people. Whether in the queue at the supermarket, or out on the high street, allow as much space as possible between yourself and others. Keeping 2m apart is good, but the further the distance the lower the risk is of passing the virus on to each other. Good ventilation is also helpful in indoor spaces, as fresh air dilutes the particles which spread Covid-19. Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce the risk of infection from coronavirus by over 70%.
We expect some restrictions such as wearing a face mask and keeping distance from people we do not live with to be with us for some time after we come out of lockdown. Your mask should be something you take with you whenever you leave the house, as you would a wallet or your mobile phone. If you’re in need of a new face mask, or just fancy a new look we have 500 Stick With It Suffolk masks to give away, you can claim yours by emailing StickWithItSuffolk@suffolk.gov.uk
Given that one third of people who have Covid-19 do not display symptoms, regular testing will also play a significant role in helping Suffolk live with and manage Covid-19.
Since January, 12 new community testing sites have opened across Suffolk, with more to follow in the coming days. These sites offer testing to people who cannot work from home and do not have symptoms of Coronavirus.
For those who cannot work from home, regular testing will likely become a routine part of your week in order to protect those around you. The test process takes just 15 minutes with the result provided via text within an hour.
For further details and to book a test, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/testing or call 0333 772 6144. By identifying cases early, we can break this invisible chain of infection.
These centres are only for people not showing symptoms of Covid-19. If you have symptoms or may have been in close contact with someone who has, you should call 119 or go to the NHS website to book a test at one of the 12 symptomatic testing sites in Suffolk.
We must remember that it only takes one opportunity for this virus to spread, it won’t recognise that you follow the rules most of the time. So the most important thing we can all do is to question ourselves about the actions we are taking – Is this the safest thing I can do to protect my friends and family? Am I putting other people’s loved ones in danger?
Suffolk needs you to play your part.