Harlow Council and local health leaders appeal for residents to stay safe and take care this Christmas

Health / Wed 22nd Dec 2021 at 12:11pm

THE town’s public health leaders are encouraging residents to stay safe and take care as Harlow continues to face the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the spread of the Omicron variant across the country.

As of 21 December 2021, there were 928 positive COVID-19 cases in the seven days prior to that date, highlighting an increasing number of infections in Harlow. The number of hospitalisations as a result of COVID-19 continues to remain below peak pandemic levels at The Princess Alexandra Hospital, but leaders have warned that the situation and pressures on local health services could change at any point if residents don’t take measures to protect themselves and others seriously in the days ahead before the Christmas break.

How residents can help:

Residents can protect themselves, their loved ones and their community by doing rapid tests (lateral flow tests). Residents should test on days they are more likely to catch or spread COVID-19. For example, do a test before:

Mixing with people in crowded indoor places.

Visiting someone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

Residents should also do daily rapid tests (one a day for seven days) if they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 and are either:

Fully vaccinated.

Under 18 years and 6 months old.

The best thing all residents can do to protect themselves and others from the Omicron variant is to get their booster vaccine. All adults in Harlow can now book their booster vaccine at a number of local venues. Walk-in clinics are being held and will be promoted by the council and its health partners. It is good news that the Phoenix Bar in the Harvey Centre is now being used as a pop-up vaccination clinic.

The council, local GPs and hospital leaders are working together to understand the impact of the latest outbreak on workforce capacity, alongside the approach taken by other blue light and key services. Contingency plans have been activated and the focus now is not only on reducing the spread of the virus by promoting the booster campaign, but also targeting those hard-to-reach groups of people who are yet to have had their first dose of the vaccine.

For those who have had no vaccinations, these can also be booked online at: https://www.nhs.uk/

Any resident struggling to get to their vaccine appointment, can contact the Essex Wellbeing Service who can organise a taxi. This is free of charge as long as a booking reference can be shown or a screenshot confirming the appointment is provided. Details can be found online (https://www.essex.gov.uk/covid-19-vaccine), by calling the Essex Wellbeing Service on 0300 303 9988 or email at [email protected].

Councillor Joel Charles, Deputy Leader of Harlow Council, said:

“The first responsibility of the council in this situation is to take proportionate action to safeguard public health. This is the council’s single focus in the run-up to the Christmas break.

“Thanks to the swift action taken by the West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group and The Princess Alexandra Hospital, plans to get booster jabs in arms as quickly as possible and treat those who require hospitalisation with the worst symptoms is working at an unprecedented speed and level of professionalism. Their actions continue to save lives. Essex County Council’s public health team is providing ongoing support and advice about how the district should respond too, which has been helpful in informing the town-wide action plan.

“My colleagues and I are watching the national situation carefully. The council is prepared to deal with the challenges of this pandemic and is keeping a close eye on any additional guidance which may emerge from the Government in the coming days. The truth is that getting your booster jab is the best way to protect the community at large. As we approach the Christmas break, it is the council’s determination that residents can enjoy as near normal a celebration as possible. Following public health advice will maximise the chance that more people can see their loved ones at Christmas. The council stands ready to mobilise resources where needed should the situation change.

“The Community Hub, operated by Rainbow Services, is available this week and will be open at various times after Christmas. This service is in place to care for vulnerable people who continue to struggle as the impact of the pandemic on daily life continues, and aid those having to self-isolate who may not have access to any family or friends for support.”

Lance McCarthy, chief executive of The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said:

“As we respond to the rapidly increasing risk and impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, we urge our community to follow the key guidance to protect yourself and your loved ones over the festive period.

“Alongside maintaining hands, face, space and fresh air and having your COVID-19 booster vaccinations, we need your support in following our latest visiting guidance. It is also a requirement that you take a quick COVID-19 test (lateral flow test) before attending our hospitals to ensure that we can provide high quality care whilst keeping our patients and our people safe. Thank you for your ongoing support.”

Peter Wightman, Managing Director of the West Essex CCG, said:

“While this remains a challenging time, work continues to make sure as many people as possible receive their COVID-19 and booster vaccinations. This work will continue across the festive period to make sure everyone who wants and needs a COVID-19 vaccine or booster will be able to have one.

“You can visit the national booking service website or go to the Healthier Future website to check your eligibility for a vaccination, see answers to frequently asked questions, or find out about walk-in appointments.

“Continuing to follow hygiene advice, and taking regular LFT tests, also continues to be hugely important in keeping everyone safe.

“There are also a number of ways to get health advice and care if you, a family member or a friend feel ill.

“Visit www.nhs.uk or call 111 – for free, round the clock help when your GP is closed, when it’s an urgent but not a life-threatening 999 situation, or if you are unsure where to go to get the right help for your medical condition.

“Your pharmacist is also an excellent place to visit for general health advice and the Christmas and New Year opening times are now available on the West Essex CCG web-site.

“You can also telephone 111, to get straight through to mental health advice by choosing option 2.”

Harlow Community Hub:

The Community Hub is open Monday to Friday, between 10am to 2pm, and is available on 01279 927005 or email at [email protected].

Over Christmas and the New Year period, the hub will only be open from 10am to 12 noon on Christmas Eve, 29 December, 30 December and 31 December. Normal opening resumes from Tuesday 4 January 2022.

Hospital guidance:

The latest visiting guidance and information on lateral flow tests can be found at www.pah.nhs.uk.

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