Health Matters - By Matt Ashton

BLOG: Chasing the virus out of the city is not good enough – we have to keep it out!

Director of Public Health, Matthew Ashton, warns we can’t let our guard down despite today’s good news…

Today we have learned that Liverpool, along with the rest of the city region, will enter the new tier 2 restrictions from Wednesday 2 December.

This is a result of some incredible hard work over the last six weeks to drive levels of the virus in the city down – from 700 cases per 100,000 people in mid-October to less than 150 now.

The city has really embraced the regular testing of people without symptoms, known as community testing or SMART (Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing) pilot we have been running in partnership with the military and the universities.

It has so far resulted in almost a third of residents being tested, more than 700 positive cases being identified and those people supported to self-isolate, reducing the risk of the virus spreading to others.

Thank you to all of those many, many thousands of residents who have found time in their day to go and get tested – it is very much appreciated. You have helped protect yourself, your loved ones, and the city, and have directly contributed to us getting to where we are today. Thank you!

The network of mobile testing units for people with symptoms also played a part, with more people with symptoms of covid coming forward for testing, while our local contact tracers worked with the national team to identify those who had been in contact with positive cases, and ensured they were given the advice and support they needed.

Thank you to our young people in secondary schools who agreed to be tested. To parents who took their entire family to be tested. To the famous faces and everyday folk who got tested and helped spread the word through our communications channels.

Our success is a result of all of the above: good access to testing, good contact tracing, and our communities supporting people to self isolate. In addition, the tier 3 restrictions and the national lockdown have resulted in levels of physical contact being reduced further.

Communities right across the city have responded brilliantly by following the rules, hands – face – space, in what has been a really challenging time for all of us.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND. One of the mass Covid-19 testing centres at the Liverpool Tennis Centre on 8 November 2020. Picture: Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council.

We are all desperate to see the back of the virus, and the good news is 2021 looks like it will be a better year. Fingers crossed, we may have a vaccine being rolled out soon that will protect the vulnerable and – hopefully – allow us over the course of the year to go back to something resembling normal.

BUT it is one thing driving the virus out of the city – and another altogether keeping it out. We saw at the end of the summer how quickly cases rose again as restrictions began to be lifted. Remember too that numbers were lower then, than they are now. More than 700 people have died in our hospitals as a result of Covid this year, and each case leaves behind scores of devastated friends and relatives, and many others have been left feeling with debilitating after effects through Long Covid. We must never lose sight that this is a killer virus.

So we are now on a mission to keep levels low in our city up to and beyond Christmas, through the cold winter months and in to spring – because the last thing any of us want is a return to a national lockdown, or local restrictions, in January or February. The restrictions are being reviewed every two weeks, and an early Christmas present of being placed in tier 3 again would be a really unwelcome gift.

So that means staying in the habit of getting tested regularly, using the walk up centres that we will be establishing when the pilot transitions into a more sustainable scheme.

It means getting tested before you see your relatives over Christmas.

It means getting tested before you go out for a meal in a restaurant.

It means getting tested before you go to see a spectator sport.

It is a really important way of us controlling the virus until we get the most vulnerable immunised with a vaccination.

But a negative test result does not let you get on with your life with no other control measures – it is reduced risk, not no risk. So we still need to follow the rules around regular hand washing, social distancing and avoiding household mixing.

Wavertree mass testing
Covid mass testing centre at Wavertree Tennis Centre

The way Liverpool has responded so far tells me we can absolutely embrace the challenge. Protecting ourselves, our friends, families, loved ones, and the wider city now and in the year to come.

So thank you for your magnificent response over the last few weeks. Let’s keep doing what we are doing until we will be able to finally have something big to celebrate.

Liverpool Waterfront