Our Director of Public Health, Rachel Wigglesworth gives a Scilly-specific update following confirmation of the move to Step 4 of the government’s roadmap on 19 July.
Following government’s confirmation that the move to Step 4 will occur on 19 July, I am still supportive of continuing with all of the safe behaviours and working practices which have meant that Scilly has (so far) avoided some of the worst impacts of the pandemic. I have reiterated this advice below, for ease of reference.
You will be aware by now that there have been a small number of confirmed cases on the islands in recent weeks. These cases and the relevant contacts are currently self-isolating, but they are unlikely to be the last we see on the islands. Again, this does not affect my Public Health advice at this time - you do not need to do anything beyond the measures outlined below for now, unless you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace - but it does serve to underline the importance of the measures and doing everything you can to keep your community safe.
This week a member of my team held a webinar for the Islands’ Partnership to provide Public Health advice for local businesses. It was a really useful experience for my team and there was a great discussion about how the attending business owners would deal with customers who need to self-isolate in their accommodation. As a result the Council has also produced some further advice for the islands’ businesses on the preparations they may wish to make ahead of the changes on 19 July, when many of the coronavirus legal restrictions are no longer in place.
Businesses have a responsibility to manage the health and safety risks to their staff and customers, and it is essential that they consider their business continuity arrangements fully in the coming days. There is a high chance of further cases being identified and further people (perhaps your staff) having to self-isolate, so having effective plans in place, and policies to reduce risk will be vital to keeping businesses open and protecting everyone as much as possible.
Until 16 August, immediate self-isolation remains a legal requirement for anyone who is identified by NHS Test and Trace. You must self-isolate if you:
- have coronavirus symptoms
- test positive for coronavirus
- live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive
- are identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact
Following 16 August, the self-isolation rules will change to allow anyone who has had both doses of the coronavirus vaccine and does not subsequently test positive for coronavirus, to go about their lives without self-isolating. Whilst this may reduce the number of people forced to self-isolate, we are still a full month away from the change and businesses will need to prepare themselves for the high likelihood of at least some of their staff having to self-isolate at some point over the summer.
The vaccinations programme has been rolled out very effectively on the islands and it is hoped that those who have received both jabs will not suffer the more serious effects of coronavirus even if they do contract the disease. That said, there is no guarantee that they won’t still be able to pass it on, so safe behaviours are still vital to reducing the risk of spread and protecting the most vulnerable. For those who have not yet taken up the opportunity to get vaccinated - please do so as soon as possible.
Alongside getting your vaccine and erring on the side of caution, you MUST still get a PCR (lab-tested) test if you have coronavirus symptoms or have been asked to do so by either the Council, NHS Test and Trace or a medical professional. Please note there have been some changes to the routes for accessing testing on the islands and you must check the Council’s ‘Symptoms and Testing’ webpage for the latest information on how to get a PCR test.
Please note that the testing and safe behaviours advice applies equally to residents and visitors, and as cases have been identified in both of these groups, it is as important as ever that we work together to reduce further spread. Advice to anyone planning a trip to Scilly can be found on the Council’s website and I ask that residents take a moment to familiarise themselves with this advice and direct their visiting friends and customers to it.
Safe behaviours advice from the Director of Public Health - applies both before and after 19 July, until further notice:
- Stick to the safest interpretation of the guidance. Please don’t pre-empt the official date for the changes in guidance. Don’t seek to flex the rules. Don’t put pressure on others to flex the rules. Remember: modelling safe behaviours is a good way of encouraging others to do the same.
- Keep group numbers low. Remember it’s still a maximum of 30 people outdoors, or 6 indoors if from more than 2 different households. The latest advice is to keep numbers low even after 19 July.
- Vaccinations are vital. We urge you to take up the offer of a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are invited to do so. It is the best way of protecting yourself from the most serious effects of the virus.
- We still want you to check in using the NHS App. Public Health is still finding the information obtained from the NHS COVID-19 App useful and we urge you to continue to check in wherever possible.
- Meet outside wherever possible. Socialising outside remains the safer option, as the Delta variant is much easier to transmit in enclosed spaces. If you are meeting inside, be sure to let plenty of fresh air into indoor spaces.
- Make space. Being close to people increases transmission considerably. You must still keep your distance from anyone you do not live with (2 metres apart at all times). This applies whether you are indoors or outdoors - in the street, or on the beach. Making space will still be important after 19 July if we are to reduce transmission.
- Keep physical interaction to a minimum. This helps reduce the risk of spread and should be a consideration even with your closest friends and family. Physical interaction applies to everything from hugging someone to sharing cutlery at a picnic.
- Consider the most vulnerable. Remember some individuals remain more vulnerable to the serious complications of coronavirus, even if fully vaccinated.
- Remember basic hygiene. Keep washing your hands and cleaning your surroundings regularly. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze and dispose of tissues safely.
- Take regular rapid (lateral flow) tests. If you are not symptomatic, you should take regular lateral flow tests (and report the results) to help us identify any potential for outbreaks.
- Wear a face covering. You should still wear a face covering where legally required. After 19 July, the government still expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces. This is also strongly advised by our local public health team.
Thanks to everyone for continuing to seriously consider the risks to the islands. The pandemic is far from over and we must continue to do what we can to keep everyone safe and in business.