Message from Julia Burrows, Director of Public Health, Barnsley – 28 August 2020

The daily and weekly number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Barnsley is reducing again and we are not on the national watch list for areas of concern. As always, Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be closely monitored and managed locally. 

Wombwell

It’s good news that the small spike in cases we saw in Wombwell last week has now fallen. Thanks to the Wombwell residents who got tested and then isolated – you are helping to keep our communities safe. The enhanced testing in the Wombwell area may mean that we see another rise in cases over the next week or so.

We’re seeing a growing number of positive cases where people have had no symptoms.  This is why it’s so important to maintain social distancing, wear a face covering when advised, and regularly wash your hands to reduce the risk of transmission.

“More than just a cold”

For most people, Coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness. It is caused by a new and complicated virus, and we still have much to learn about how it affects individuals, both while infected and in the long-term. 

We have already seen nationally that people of all ages, including those with no underlying health conditions, can become seriously ill, and conversely many people who have received positive tests have been symptom-free.

Some people may experience longer-term health problems following a case of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Their symptoms may alternately improve and worsen over time and can include a variety of difficulties, from fatigue and trouble concentrating, to anxiety, muscle weakness, and continuing shortness of breath. 

The actions you take, including reporting symptoms and following all the appropriate guidance, will have an important role in protecting the most vulnerable in society and in shaping the overall trajectory of the epidemic.

It is really good to know that only a very small number of residents have needed hospitalisation due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) over recent weeks, and this probably reflects the fact that we are currently seeing most of our cases in younger age groups. However, if the number of positive cases rises significantly again among the population, it will inevitably spill over into more vulnerable groups and could result in hospital admissions again, and sadly more deaths.

Whatever your opinion on Coronavirus (COVID-19), I urge you to follow the guidance and help protect our borough, especially those within our community who will need hospital admission and intensive care support if we see the numbers of cases rise significantly over the next few months as we move into winter.  

Back to school

Following on from last week’s message from Mel John-Ross, Executive Director of Children’s Services, I echo her sentiment that while we cannot eliminate all risk of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the arrangements and safeguards in schools and colleges make them as safe as any place at this time.

A recent Public Health England study found very low numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, after they reopened in June until they closed for the summer.

PHE also found that there were more likely to be outbreaks in those areas that also had a high Coronavirus (COVID-19), incidence, suggesting transmission in the community was driving the spread in schools. This demonstrates the continued need to control the spread of infection in the community to help keep schools open, with everyone playing their part by washing their hands, wearing face coverings, keeping distance and getting a test if they have symptoms.

This is echoed in the statement from the UK Chief Medical Officer on schools and childcare reopening.

Early identification and quickly managing outbreaks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in schools will be essential as part of our local response.

We’ve been working closely with schools, and they will give clear advice to pupils and staff not to attend school with symptoms.

Prompt availability of testing, appropriate isolation advice, and careful public health surveillance and monitoring of educational settings are key to support the safe return to schools and we will continue to work closely with individual schools as well as the Barnsley Schools Alliance to ensure that children and young people are kept safe while getting their all-important education.

Supporting our hospitality sector to keep people safe and protect businesses

Barnsley’s hospitality industry is important. It provides income and jobs for a lot of people and being able to socialise with friends safely is really important in these difficult times.  We want to see the industry thrive - but not at the expense of risking public health, and we have seen elsewhere venues having to close down to a rise in infection rates.  So, it's vital that licensed venues and their customers do all they can to minimise the risk of spread.  I have heard people expressing concern where pubs and customers started off adhering to the guidance really well, but over recent weeks seem to have become more complacent, and not adhered to social distancing and other measures.

The council is, therefore, embarking on a programme of proactive work with all the borough’s pubs to ensure they have the correct health and safety measures in place and that they are doing all they can to ensure the coronavirus guidelines are being followed

We know that most of our licensees are responsible and are adhering to the restrictions in order to safeguard their business and their customers, and we want to support and encourage them to keep doing this.

We all need to play our part to bring down the Coronavirus (COVID-19) rate and this means we all have to follow safe practices and observe social distancing.

Bank Holiday plans

I’m sure that many people will be looking forward to the Bank Holiday long weekend.  Please remember to follow the government guidelines to keep yourself, your families and your communities safe.

It remains the case that you should not:

  • socialise indoors in groups of more than two households (anyone in your support bubble counts as one household) – this includes when dining out or going to the pub
  • socialise outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is from exclusively from two households or support bubbles
  • interact socially with anyone outside the group you are attending a place with, even if you see other people you know, for example, in a restaurant, community centre or place of worship
  • hold or attend celebrations (such as parties) where it is difficult to maintain social distancing and avoid close social interaction – even if they are organised by businesses and venues that are taking steps to follow Coronavirus (COVID-19) Secure guidelines
  • stay overnight away from your home with members of more than one other household (your support bubble counts as one household)

It is also against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

There is support bubble information on our dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) pages under How to protect yourself.

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