Covid Update from Blackburn's Director of Public Health
Five ways we can all keep Blackburn with Darwen’s Covid rates low
While Blackburn with Darwen occupies a spot in the bottom 12% of England’s Covid case rates ‘league table’, local leaders are encouraging everyone to do their bit to help keep the borough’s rates low and ease pressure on local NHS services.
As winter approaches, the borough’s Director of Public Health Professor Dominic Harrison advises that now is not the time to be complacent.
Today he’s calling on Blackburn with Darwen residents of all ages to follow five simple steps, such as wearing face coverings – including in secondary schools and colleges – to help protect our local NHS.
Wearing a mask is one of the five ways we can all do our bit to slow and prevent the spread of Coronavirus in our communities.
The other things we can all do are:
- Washing our hands regularly and carrying hand sanitiser when we go out
- Taking regular rapid tests, particularly before mixing with others
- Getting fully vaccinated against Covid – including the booster dose which is available to over 40s from next Monday, 22 November
- And keeping rooms well-ventilated, particularly when spending time indoors with people we don’t live with.
Prof Harrison said:
“Blackburn with Darwen is currently in a very good position in terms of Covid case rates, and we want to keep it that way to avoid any further restrictions or disruptions to the freedoms we’ve been enjoying since summer.
“Wearing a face mask in enclosed and crowded public places, and in schools and colleges is a very simple thing we can do to protect one another, and also our local NHS services which are already feeling increasing pressure.
“I know that many organisations and employers in the borough have kept mask-wearing as one of their Covid-safe measures. I hope that those that have relaxed the face coverings rule will reinstate this important and effective infection control measure as soon as possible.”
While not mandatory, face coverings are still recommended in crowded and enclosed spaces in the government's Covid MPs themselves were recently asked to return to mask-wearing in the House of Commons, and the Chief Medical Officers and the British Medical Association, which represents doctors, have also .
A change to government guidance this week allows Directors of Public Health in England to recommend reintroducing face coverings in education settings in their areas if they feel they are necessary.
The Council has written to all Blackburn with Darwen headteachers to request that they reintroduce mask-wearing in all communal areas (to be removed when pupils are seated in class), and on school and public transport.
Prof Harrison said:
“We’re not making a call for new measures in response to any current surge and this is not ‘mask mandation’ – that is, it will not be required by law. We’re asking all residents to follow these five preventative steps and to do the best they can to keep the NHS as free as possible for those who need life-saving urgent care this winter.
“The recent surge in attendances at A&E for both Covid and non-Covid illness meant that, on 5 November, doctors at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust had to ask people to stay away from A&E unless they had a serious or life-threatening condition.
“The borough’s Covid case rates are still significantly lower than the England and North West averages. According to confirmed case data to 10 November, Blackburn with Darwen’s infection rate is 285.9 /100k.
“However, whilst case rates have remained steady over the past few weeks, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust has seen a surge in Covid hospital admissions in the last week, with now over 80 Covid in-patients, increasing from a fairly steady 35-45 in-patients since early August.
“This is undoubtedly due to waning immunity amongst older and more vulnerable double-jabbed patients, as well as some vulnerable residents delayed getting vaccinated, and the fact that only 35.5% of the overall target group for the booster jab have yet received their jab.
“The rise in people with Covid needing hospital treatment tells us that there is still a risk, despite our case rates remaining steady over recent weeks. Now is the time to look at other ways we can protect ourselves, and to keep Blackburn with Darwen towards the bottom of the national league table.
“We need more of our local population to take up their Covid vaccinations, particularly the booster jab, to increase their protection over the winter.
“Wearing face masks is another simple way to protect ourselves and others, which is why I’m drawing attention to the government advice around face coverings and appealing to everyone in Blackburn with Darwen to wear a mask in busy public places.
“This is an extra layer of protection we can easily implement now. If you have stopped wearing a face covering in shops and other public places since restrictions relaxed in July, please consider starting to wear one again.”
Get the latest Coronavirus advice and information for Blackburn with Darwen at www.blackburn.gov.uk/coronavirus.