Our latest case rates here in Barnsley are now 31.6 per 100,000 people in the population (using data for the 7 days ending 15 May 2021.) This is a welcome reduction in cases, especially in old older age groups and we are seeing very little activity in the hospital as a result of COVID-19 which is a very positive picture.
There’s been a lot of talk about COVID-19 variants this week. Many variants of the Covid virus already exist and it’s normal for a virus to change over time. Some of these variants are not a worry, but others may have features that are concerning, such as being more transmissible or less responsive to the vaccine. These are the ones referred to as "variants of concern".
I know that some of you may be worried about the VOC-21APR-02 variant, first identified in India, following the Secretary of State’s announcement last week and the wide media coverage since. I can confirm that Barnsley is not one of the 86 councils with five or more confirmed cases that were mentioned in the briefing.
However, that’s not to say that we might not see this or any other variants of concern in the future, and it’s more likely than not that we will.
The concern about the possible impact of variants is why we need to keep being as careful as possible in all the activities we do to ensure that community transmission in Barnsley remains low. In addition, we are ready to step up surge testing quickly if we need to and – even more crucially - are moving as fast as we can to get as many people vaccinated as possible – and seeing great progress on this.
All the preventive measures we are so familiar with work against the virus, whatever the variant so please continue to follow the hands face space fresh air guidance, continue to take part in twice-weekly testing, and isolate if you test positive for the virus.
Don’t forget to take your face covering out with you whenever you go shopping, to a pub, restaurant, or any other indoor space, as this will continue to help protect ourselves, families and friends, when mixing with other households.
Every contact you have bears a risk of transmission – so the more careful you can be each time makes a big difference. In particular, if you can see friends and family outdoors it is far safer to do so. If you need to go inside, having the windows and doors open is really important.
Finally, please get your vaccine as soon as you are invited.
Remember: even if you've had both your vaccine doses you still need to follow the same guidance as anyone who hasn’t. You still need to follow the guidance and get tested regularly – this will help to reduce transmission. Getting vaccinated makes it far less likely you will become ill as a result of becoming infected and reduces transmission but doesn’t remove the risk of transmission completely.
Thank you for everything you are doing – as an individual, a family, school, or workplace. There really is strength in numbers and every safe behaviour we carry out adds up and plays a vital role in protecting ourselves and our borough.